Noble County and the rest of northeast Indiana needs more houses.

Government can play a supportive role in helping spur new residential development.

But should government money be used to help spur high-end housing out of the price range of the average resident?

This past week, the Indiana Regional Development Authority came to Noble County to hear a request from Avilla seeking about $760,000 in READI funding, which the town would use to help install infrastructure to open up two subdivisions for new home development. Home developer Granite Ridge Builders would construct both.

The first would be expand the Watercrest subdivision to open up 13 more lots for single-family “villaminiums.” Watercrest was described as an “entry-level” development built in the 1990s, with a mix of rentals, duplex condominiums assessed around $140,000 and single-family homes.

READI money would help clear the vacant area, get utilities in and drive down cost for Granite Ridge Builders, which received the land as a donation from the original developer at $0 price.

With these cost reductions, Granite Ridge should be able to build some affordable homes. The savings on lot development, Granite Ridge says, will be passed directly on to the buyer.

Across Main Street in the Orchard Valley subdivision, the plan is much the same — put in infrastructure to drive down the cost, open up the development and get new homes on 40 additional lots.

The difference, however, comes in the type of development.

Officials described Orchard Valley as a more high-end development, with Granite Ridge describing list prices starting at $300,000 and ranging up to $500,000.

That raises the question — should government be subsidizing the cost of a half-million-dollar home?

Of the 8,539 housing units in Noble County with a mortgage, only 13.3% are valued at $300,000 or more, while just 3.6% are worth $500,000 or more.

Median household income in Noble County is about $59,000 per year. With interest rates rising, a $300,000 or more home is well out of the price range for even a debt-free purchaser at that price.

With $760,000 in READI funds and 53 lots total, the average per-lot reduction would be around $14,500, less than 3% savings off the total cost on a $500,000 home.

We don’t dispute that the four-county area needs more housing, of all types, including higher-dollar development. Even though first-time buyers can’t get into a higher-end home, a second-home buyer with more equity and more money can, which frees up their older house at a lower cost for that first-time purchaser. That’s a natural and positive interaction.

But when it comes to government involvement and incentive in the process, should tax dollars be going to subsidize new homes in the Top 10% of the county’s inventory that most local residents can’t afford?

No.

High earners don’t need a gimme for their high-end homes.

If tax dollars are to be used to reduce cost on new housing local communities desperately need, it should be focused at entry-level development like Watercrest — development that normal residents could actually afford.
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