Affordable Housing Discussions – Completed ROI Study

2019 Completed ROI Regional Housing Study – Brown County Profile starts on page 43

Meetings providing local input into the study

Nov 26, 2018. Notification Facebook – Brown County Matters by Jim Kemp, President of the RDC — Meetings to Discuss The Affordable Housing Issue.

My summary of the discussions provided below.  I welcome the study sponsored by the Regional Opportunity Initiative (ROI) that covers all 11 counties in the southwest central (Uplands) region.

“Affordable Housing”  in Indiana often refers to available places to rent and purchase and generally is associated with those in the low to moderate income level.  However, “affordable” can also be defined as a mortgage and principal payment at 30% of monthly income.  So, with this definition, housing would have to be both “affordable” and “available.”

RDG Example Regional Housing Study Lake of the Ozarks

In addition to these meetings, an online survey will be available to county citizens. Input from these meetings and from the survey will be integrated within a market analysis. Ideas and suggestions will be presented to the community in early spring.

Dec 6, 2018 Notes from Public Meetings

  • 9:00 a.m. Local Business Community, Realtors, Developers, Builders, Lenders
  • 10:30 a.m. Elected and Appointed Officials
  • 1:00 p.m. General Public and Community Organizations
  • 2:30 p.m. City and County Staff
  • 4:30 p.m. Brown County School Corporation Staff & Employees

Overall Agreement

  • Maintain our Quality of Life – Country / Artist Colony of the Midwest  — they way it has been – and find the right balance.  This is the attribute desired by residents that were born here and attracts many new residents to the county.
  • When it comes to affordable and available housing, there is no “one thing” – many options are needed.
  • Infrastructure is a key component. We currently have three wastewater treatment facilities that have the capability to expand. These are located in Nashville, Gnaw Bone, and Helmsburg.  Another facility is being proposed for Bean Blossom.

Local Business Community, Realtors, Developers, Builders, Lenders: 

  • “Affordable” is based on income — mortgage that is within 30% of income.  The housing also has to be available.
  • Need Credit Scores in the mid to high 600s
  • Need an inventory and eligible buyers (lack of savings and debt an issue for many millennials)
    • Under 125K not livable; 150-200K have issues
  • Rent – $700-800 is an affordable range, easy to keep rented – no more than a 2-month vacancy.
  • Principal and Interest on 150K, 5% interest, 30 years – $805.00 per month
  • Demand.
    • Employee Housing – tourism/ hospitality industry
    • Starting teachers ($30k year)
  • Rural Living – Utilities and other costs can be higher – propane, home maintenance, electric, water, sewers if available, fire insurance, individual road maintenance, may need a chainsaw.
  • Expansion of broadband is a plus
  • Great schools and Leadership supported with ROI Ready Schools grants.  STEM initiative another plus.
  • We are a bedroom community.  Residents commute to the better-paying jobs located in other counties.

Elected and Appointed Officials

  • Commissioner Diana Biddle stated we had an “availability” issue as opposed to an “affordable” issue and stated we had too many tourist homes.   The tourist home issue was discussed at the APC meetings – 184 tourist homes (8,512 total homes) and they are at the higher price range end -$240K and up which is NOT in the “affordable” range.  We also have a large percent (20%+) of second homes.
    • If you accept a new definition of “affordable” as being a mortgage payment at 30% of monthly income, then restricting tourist homes may result in more “available” homes at the higher end of the market. This is a “new” argument with pros and cons.  
  • Septic / Sewer Issues discussed with the point being more homes need to be hooked up to sewers vs septics.

 General Public and Community Organizations

  • What should be the target number for affordable homes?  If you want to add 2,500  people to cover the projected loss in population, need 1,000 homes.
    • Available land an issue – 53% of land federal and state-owned.
    • Clusters of 10-15 homes per a development may work
    • Population in 2017 at 15,035. Projected to peak in 2020 at 15,393 and drops to 13,821 in 2040 (-1,572) and to 12,785 in 2050 (-2,608)
  • There is no “one thing” … Likely need different options depending on the township
  • Helmsburg (Jackson Township) has 32 lots available if zoning variance approved.  Could build for $100,000K sell at $110,000.
  • Noone wants the vinyl village/box home developments
  • Want to maintain county as “Country / Artist Colony of the Midwest.”
  • Tax policy of low property high income contributes to higher land prices, higher median home values, and second homes.
  • Affordable housing can be attractive to just not the local residents but to potential new residents as well — the 55+ age group that may be looking for a retirement or second home.

City and County Staff (did not sit through all of this one)

  • Sewer Service – want more customers and have the capability to expand the plant
    • Septic System code introduced in 1977 … and half homes built before that would not meet current codes.
  • Maple Leaf will lead to more growth – Synder Farm ideal for more development.

Brown County School Corporation Staff & Employees

  • Declining enrollments and the impact on funding a major problem.
    • Open enrollment (no cost to parents for enrolling their kids in other districts) is a factor. Reasons are due to convenience/location.  Schools in other counties may be more convenient for parents who commute to work outside the county.
    • There is some recruiting. Other districts may also have programs not available in BC.
  • 30% of existing staff live in the county, others mostly live Columbus and Bloomington.  Many teachers start living outside the county due to limited available and affordable housing and over time, get established in other communities (schools, churches, friends community)  and choose not to relocate to the county.
  • Need affordable options for starting teachers — 30K salary.
  • The 2008 flood caused a loss of many families that could not afford to rebuild.
  • The Forest Hills Apartments (accommodated county residents) and did not lead to increases in enrollment.

Facebook Post of this Post – Additional Comments

  • Need to apply a “holistic framework” which includes economic, environmental and social dimensions in equal parts. Nor any mention of “smart growth” which would include, green building materials, utilizing southern exposure at building sites to capture solar energy. It is hugely important that we drive the direction of how when and where our community grows. I know it was mentioned in yesterday’s community portion about free market driving the needs of the people, but again market would not exist if it were not for the government. We must not allow the bottom line to drive community develope if we are to form a more perfect union. A holistic framework must be put in place in order to produce positive economic, environmental and social change. — JoAnne Highbaugh


  • If you fail to plan, you plan to fail — Benjamin Franklin
  • Plans are nothing; planning is everything — Dwight D. Eisenhower

The context for a housing plan with a focus on Quality Of Life can be provided by a county strategic plan, Comprehensive Plan and Economic Plan.

The Vision 2010 and 2020 Plans supported by the Community Foundation would be components in a county strategic plan.  Leading Brown County is the revised Brown County Vision 2020: A Vision for the Future that was updated August 2014.

The County Comprehensive Plan (see 2012 and draft 1993 plans) provides a context for the Housing Study as will the  Economic Development Strategic Plan that is in the process of being developed.




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