A recent housing study completed for DeKalb County highlighted the need for housing of all types within the county. A sign in the Bridgewater North development points to villa lots, while a recently completed home and one under construction is pictured in the background. Staff photo by Andy Barrand
A recent housing study completed for DeKalb County highlighted the need for housing of all types within the county. A sign in the Bridgewater North development points to villa lots, while a recently completed home and one under construction is pictured in the background. Staff photo by Andy Barrand
AUBURN — It is no mystery Northeast Indiana faces a housing shortage. A recent survey set out to examine just how bad that shortage is.

DeKalb County has the potential to fill 1,450 new housing units of all types per year. The Northeast Indiana market potential is much greater at 15,000.

Heather Presley-Cowen, CEO of the Housing Resource Hub, located in Fort Wayne, said, “DeKalb County is listed as one of the top areas that should attract market potential.”

After months of surveys and the gathering of information from community leaders and residents, the answers were released April 20 at the Community Foundation of DeKalb County. Governmental leaders, builders, real estate agents and nonprofit organization leaders were on hand to hear the results from the Housing Resource Hub.

The survey was a joint venture between the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership, the foundation and other local agencies.

Presley-Cowen said the key to achieving the goals of the study is to have good government partners working together.

“This document could have all the potential in the world, there is lots of opportunity … If you don’t take action on it, it will remain simply potential,” she said.

DeKalb County, with a population of 43,770 in 2021, had 16,655 households, with 59% of them being one- and two-person households. The county’s median household income is $60,500 and the median housing value is $140,500.

Presely-Cowen said by everyone’s best estimate, the median housing value is rising quickly because of the lack of housing stock.

When looking at where the current market potential lives, 53.1% of them live inside the county, 14.7% live in Allen County, 14% in Steuben and Noble counties and 18.2% live outside of Northeast Indiana. The survey revealed 2,420 households of all incomes have the potential to move within the county.

The target market for new housing units are mixed with the largest share of the market — 43% — being traditional and non-traditional families; 31% are younger singles and couples and 26% empty nesters and retirees. This groups’ housing preferences were detached houses at 56%, rentals 33%, town houses 8% and condominiums 3%.

After narrowing down the target market, the survey’s results highlighted rental and new home prices for the DeKalb County market. Current rental units within the county range from $750 to $1,000 a month, with some larger houses going for upward of $1,200 per month.

The new-build target market is $150,000 to $300,000, which represents 70% of the housing units within the county.

After presenting the findings, Ryan Chasey, chief operations officer with the Housing Resource Hub, outlined a couple of potential projects in LaGrange County, which could be used as models for DeKalb County.

The first, a mixed-use structure, featuring retail on the ground level, apartments on Levels 2 and 3 and townhomes on the south end of the complex. The complex will be located on the southeast corner of U.S. 20 and S.R. 9.

He said the site, which featured several vacant buildings, was ripe with potential. To make the project happen, LaGrange committed pre-development funds to the $21 million project.

“The town is really excited about the project,” Chasey said. “We are currently working through it.”

Two other projects in Shipshewana and Topeka are still in the development phases, but if they come to fruition, will feature villas, lake cottages, family homes and pocket neighborhoods.

Shipshewana’s project is located on the edge of town next to Shipshewana-Scott Elementary School and would feature 103 units on 30 acres.

Topeka’s project would be developed on a site currently owned by the town and would feature a similar set up to the one in Shipshewana.

Presley-Cowen said each one of the projects qualify for Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) funds and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. She said the key to these developments is the mixture of housing units for there is something for everyone.

She highlighted an emerging trend among Gen Z’ers and Millennials, who are looking for smaller yards and more common spaces including parks and walking trails.

In closing, Presley-Cowen said the next step is continuing to band together as a community to continue the discussion and make it happen.

“I hope the opportunities we have presented today can be taken to the next level,” she said. “You can’t leave this in the room. You have to take it to the next level to see anything happen.”
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