Elkhart doesn’t lack for strengths.
With only 1.6 percent of Indiana’s population, the city makes up 3.4 percent of the state’s manufacturing output. One out of 45 jobs in Indiana is in Elkhart.
Elkhart is a powerful economic engine, but one of its components is in need of repair: housing. The good news? The fix is underway, with the State and Division neighborhood targeted as a pilot program for strategies for the rest of the city.
Proposals to address Elkhart’s housing shortage – and to boost the amount of affordable housing – were presented during a recent Vibrant Communities Community Champions Roundtable at the Roosevelt Center.
Vibrant Communities organizers are planning to focus attention on qualities that affect neighborhoods in 2020, including housing but also on things such as walkability and connectivity and amenities such as parks, green spaces and gathering places.
A study done by enFocus Inc., in partnership with the Elkhart Redevelopment Commission, concluded that there is a nearly 5,000-unit housing deficit in the city of Elkhart. Also reported at the roundtable was that 64 percent of Elkhart’s workforce commutes in from outside the area. That’s a constraint on the local economy.
“This all presents a lost opportunity,” said Abby Wiles, Elkhart’s assistant director of community and redevelopment.
Wiles outlined a four-pronged approach to improved housing in Elkhart. It includes the housing supply, financials, education and outreach, and policy and regulations.
“We need to make development easy,” she said.
For the full Elkhart housing study and a comprehensive list of recommendations, visit elkhartindiana.org/housingstrategy.
The next Community Champions Roundtable, tentatively planned for February 2020, will continue the discussion on housing and neighborhoods with a look at a nearby case study in South Bend.