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Elkhart council approves $2.79 million in ARP funding for workforce housing

Screenshot captured via WebEx

Earlier this week, the Elkhart Common Council approved nearly $2.8 million in American Rescue Plan funding to support workforce housing initiatives. 

At the council meeting Monday, Director of Development Services Dayna Bennett said Elkhart’s shortage of affordable, middle-income housing hinders its ability to attract new workers.


“It begins to strangle our opportunity for economic growth because it is one of the challenges in expanding our available labor pool,” she said.


Bennet said the city will focus on three main initiatives: adding additional workforce housing units, increasing the assessed value of the existing housing stock by shoring up underdeveloped neighborhoods and providing incentives for developments near work opportunities in the city.


Based on proposals she’s received from developers, Bennet said the city could add over 1,200 units to its existing housing stock. The $2.79 million in American Rescue Plan funding will help jump-start some of those projects in 2022. 


“There’s probably not a week that goes by that I don’t get a call from a developer who wants to do some type of housing development in the city of Elkhart,” Bennett said. “But there was some hurdles that we needed to get beyond to help facilitate that development.


Bennett said the city’s involvement will vary from project to project, but it could help with property acquisition, design work, funding applications or site remediation as needed.


When asked to identify specific projects, Bennet said there were two to three that could begin construction in spring 2022 – including a multi-family unit with retail on the first floor and single-family infill housing in the surrounding area, and a potential multi-family development or work/live space.


The ordinance passed Monday night includes an amendment that states any development that receives ARP assistance from the city will eventually generate property tax revenue for the city – meaning it won’t permanently go into the hands of a nonprofit, with the exception of healthcare providers.


“No matter what we do right now [with] housing, it will be a winner for the city of Elkhart,” Councilman David Henke said Monday. “But if we plan proactively, it will even be that much longer of a winning streak for the city and future revenues.”


Bennett said the city’s return on its investment will depend on the way the property is helped – she said some low-interest loans might be issued, while land might be donated in other cases. But, she said the city doesn’t plan to be the long-term owner or developer of any of the proposed sites.


Council members voted unanimously to approve the funding Monday night.


Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.


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