Officials with Knox County Indiana Economic Development on Thursday will share with the public the results of a look into the gaps in the local housing market.
The organization’s CEO, Chris Pfaff, months ago began soliciting help from local elected officials and entities like Vincennes University and Good Samaritan to split the cost of the study, being done by Thomas P. Miller and Associates in Indianapolis.
The goal, Pfaff explained, was to prove — or disprove — a long-time theory that the local housing market is suffering, specifically in terms of mid-range homes, and to identify ways to spur growth.
Pfaff said he is “very pleased” with the results, which will be shared with the public during a presentation at 2 p.m. on Thursday at Vincennes University’s newly-renovated Learning Resource Center, Room 112.
“I would say (the study) meets our expectations of what we were hoping to achieve,” he said. “There will be a lot of data provided that talks specifically about the quantity of housing throughout the county.
“And I think it validated what we already knew, which is that we need to be building — building across a variety of price ranges.”
Pfaff said officials with Thomas P. Miller and Associates will likely use often the phrase “workforce housing” as opposed to “mid-range housing.”
Workforce housing, he pointed out, can be somewhat open to interpretation; there are people in the workforce who can afford a $300,000 home as well as those in need of an apartment to rent at $650 per month.
“A community can need both,” he said, “depending on the type of workforce you have and the type of workforce you hope to attract.”
As part of this particular study, Pfaff believes “workforce housing” means the need for housing for families who make, collectively, $30,000 to $100,000 per year, i.e. the very gap local officials have said exists in Knox County for years.
“The report will tell us we have a gap in that area, both in terms of single-family homes and multi-family homes, meaning apartments,” he said.
Another major finding, Pfaff said, is that the city has a relatively “aged” housing stock; the majority of the homes here were built before 1990.
That said, the study doesn’t discount the importance of Vincennes’ Historic District, Pfaff said.
“It looks at infill construction and the rehab of our Historic District,” Pfaff said. “I specifically had an interest in them giving us solutions for things we could do in, what I call, ‘old town,’ which I think is part of any holistic housing approach.”
Bolstering the city’s Historic District, however, will take both private and public investment, he said.
“It will take redoing curbs and sidewalks throughout the Historic District because it can make such a difference in a person’s decision to either fix up their own property or invest in a property to either flip it or keep it,” he said.
The study, however, goes beyond just offering solutions for downtown Vincennes, even extending an eye to communities like Bicknell and Oaktown, Pfaff said.
Thomas P. Miller and Associates, too, will offer recommendations on specific sites throughout the community that are “in good shape for development,” Pfaff said.
“There will be plenty of opportunity for feedback and questions,” Pfaff said. “They’ll go through their data, the sources of that data and offer feedback from stakeholder interviews they conducted over the last two to three months.
“They’ll go over conclusions they made and how they derived at some of those conclusions.”
The study, too, will be shared, he said, “as widely as possible.”
“We want to get it into the hands of residents and developers and anyone who has an interest in local housing,” he said.
A handful of housing projects are already underway.
The city’s Redevelopment Commission for years has been exploring solutions to the lack of mid-range housing, and only recently they took action.
The RDC months ago approved a gift of $342,000 to three local families operating as REM Development Group, ones planning to convert the floors of the Oliphant building into condominiums and build new residential and commercial space on the adjacent Gimbel Corner at Second and Main streets.
The RDC also committed another $218,000 in infrastructure costs associated with about 14 homes Sure Clean Inc. is looking to build in an area of Hart Street. That project is set to get underway as early as next month.
The city, too, is looking to embark on legislation that allows for the volunteer annexation of two large tracts of land just outside city limits.
Mayor Joe Yochum this spring said the potential annexation included just over 23 acres of land close to the Fox Ridge Nature Park — near Hillcrest and Bruceville roads — which a developer wants to transform into a housing development of nearly 50 single-family homes.
Two adjoining property owners want to be included as well, the mayor said.
A second, larger project, would annex more than 100 acres of land off Old Wheatland Road.