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Affordable housing out of reach for many Hoosiers, study shows

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- A woman who didn’t want to give her name explained what it cost to live at the Maple Creek Apartments on West Michigan Street west of Haughville.

“It's $628 a month,” she said. “I make about $900 gross a month.”

That's two-thirds of her money going to rent. How does she pay for clothes, electricity and food?

“It's very hard. I’m a single mother,” she said. “I get my bills aside and I calculate them all up and pay what’s important and what’s not important I leave to the side and pay’s over.”

The anonymous mom is one of tens of thousands of Hoosiers that a new study finds can’t afford to live in suitable housing at a reasonable rate.

Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing," a study released jointly by Prosperity Indiana and The National Low Income Housing Coalition, reported a worker must earn $16.02 an hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment or a minimum wage employee must work 88 hours a week to pay the rent in a comparable unit.

“Data shows that the typical renter income is insufficient to afford rental housing in 82 of Indiana’s 92 counties,” said Jessica Love, Prosperity Indiana’s Executive Director.  “For Hoosiers working full-time at minimum wage, there is a monthly deficit of over $450 to afford the state average fair market rate for a modest two-bedroom unit.”

A Prosperity Indiana statement quotes Love as calling for “an urgent need for action in implementing common-sense solutions at the federal and state level to address our affordable housing crisis.”

Derrick Maxwell is a former leasing agent at Maple Creek who stayed on a resident.

“Some of the residents are on Social Security, most retired vets and things like that, they don’t have the means because they’re set on a steady income and I feel like they should not be ostracized because they are on a fixed income,” said Maxwell who estimates he pays a quarter of his monthly income in rent. “There’s not a lot of jobs here in Indianapolis that are…or maybe these people don’t have the type of skill settings and training to make those type of jobs and make that money so it's kind of hard and you’re forced to live in areas where you would prefer not to be in because you only meet their income limit.”

Back east along West Michigan Street at White River Parkway, work continues on the Riverview Apartments, a complex developed by Goodwill and Strategic Capital Partners.

“It's targeted to families with incomes of $40-60,000 and really those that focus in that area,” said Goodwill Vice President Cindy Graham. “When we started to take a look at what was happening in the Indianapolis rental market and seeing that some of those people that are in those mid-level jobs like nursing, teachers, firemen, policemen, are really getting priced out of the fair market pricing market in the downtown area, yet their services are still needed.”

The one- and two-bedroom apartments will rent for an average of $1.35 per square foot, about ten percent less than the average rental costs in downtown.

“You would be surprised to know that Goodwill has teachers,” said Graham. “We operate 14 adult high schools and a traditional school right here on this property and we have nurses who work for us, too, so we actually have employees who would qualify for workforce housing.”

Market analysts report downtown Indianapolis’ residential rental occupancy rate is 93%, down three percent from a couple years ago, as the Mile Square is set to absorb another 1300 new rental units coming on line in 2019.

Back at Maple Creek, the woman who feared that revealing her name would anger the landlord said she had good reasons to cut corners in order to keep a roof over her family’s heads.

“If you don’t have a house, your kids gonna go to the State and you’re gonna be homeless,” she said, “and I don’t want to be homeless.”

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