Mar 8, 2024 - News

Carmel committee rethinking city housing strategy

Illustration of a Rubik's cube in the shape of a house.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A committee of Carmel community members has started a six-month effort to figure out how to successfully fill the "missing middle" that has developed in the Hamilton County suburb.

Why it matters: Despite countless best city awards and internet popularity, Carmel has not developed a reputation as an affordable place to live. For some, it has even become a difficult place to downsize.

Driving the news: Mayor Sue Finkam established the Carmel Housing Task Force last month to better understand the city's housing challenges, determine what type of housing is most needed in Carmel and provide a framework for those looking to invest in or move to the area.

  • A report with the task force's findings is expected in late July.

The big picture: Finkam said on the campaign trail last year, she would often get questions about the city's future density as a flurry of luxury apartment projects near completion, and what the city was doing to accommodate lower-wage workers who power Carmel businesses.

  • "The reality is we're in challenging times," Finkam said. "Never have we had such housing challenges as far as availability, accessibility (and) affordability. And never have we had such a flight to rental."

Zoom in: According to data shared by public policy research firm ECOnorthwest, most homes in Carmel are detached, single-family dwellings with an average median price that eclipses downtown Indianapolis, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville at more than $630,000.

  • Combined with apartment rents that have risen sharply over the past decade, ECOnorthwest senior project manager Kryn Sausedo said the situation has resulted in the "missing middle."
  • That means Carmel is in need of affordable, multi-unit housing such as duplexes, fourplexes, cottage courts and multiplexes.

Yes, but: Adding those properties is easier said than done.

  • Department of Community Services director Mike Hollibaugh referenced a project currently under council consideration that started as townhomes and duplexes before community pushback caused it to become a collection of more single-family homes.
  • "We've seen that on a number of occasions over the years," he said. "Having a serious conversation and being able to quantify that a problem is actually ourselves … theoretically, that's an easy fix."

What's next: The next task force meeting starts at 7:30am March 21 in the City Hall Council Chambers. All meetings are also broadcast and archived on Carmel TV and YouTube.

  • That meeting will focus on population, demographic and workforce trends.

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