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KEDCO Talent & Entrepreneurship Stories: Taking steps to address housing needs throughout Kosciusko County

Thursday, April 27, 2023

You recently landed your best-fit job and now you need to find somewhere to live. Or maybe you love your current job but…you don’t love the 40-minute commute to and from work, especially now that you’re rushing back to get to extracurricular activities on-time in the evenings. How might life look different if there were more options for you to live near where you work?

Filling a need for workforce housing

The Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) Housing Initiative was created to help solve a problem. A housing needs study and strategy commissioned by the City of Warsaw, Kosciusko County, the Kosciusko County Community Foundation (KCCF) in partnership with the Housing Resource Hub, showed market potential for more than 2,000 new residential units throughout the county by 2024. And data from the study highlighted a specific need for housing that reduces commuting from outside the county, with a goal of growing the local workforce.

Making progress with public-private partnerships

With the State of Indiana also recognizing the need for workforce housing across Hoosier communities, the Indiana Housing and Development Authority (IHCDA) introduced the Anchor Employer Workforce Housing Demonstration Program, a public-private partnership that promotes the creation of workforce housing in target communities––workforce housing being defined as non-subsidized, market-rate housing in proximity to employment centers.

After IHCDA launched the program, KEDCO worked alongside leading employer Zimmer Biomet, to submit an application and participate as an Anchor Employer. IHCDA approved $1 million in funding to support workforce housing in Kosciusko County, and Zimmer Biomet matched the funds with $1 million, which helped KEDCO launch the workforce housing revolving loan fund.

“We’re grateful for Zimmer Biomet’s leadership and support with this program,” said KEDCO CEO Alan Tio. We’ve continued to grow the fund with the Community Foundation also stepping forward to generously support the fund with a $2 million investment,” said KEDCO CEO Alan Tio.

The revolving loan fund is administered by the Kosciusko Development Land Trust (KDLT) a 501(c) (3) entity and part of the KEDCO Family of Businesses. Funding requests are reviewed by a nine-member Project Review Committee consisting of the five KDLT board members and four at-large members.

KDLT was established by KEDCO in 2021. Although it’s a newly established entity, it’s gaining momentum, and it’s a “right fit” for KEDCO. “Our skills and experience with working alongside local partners to develop shovel-ready industrial sites, translates really well to housing development,” said Tio.”

A glimpse of the process

KEDCO works with local units of government to identify potential sites and assesses key factors such as: soil conditions, road access, available utilities, and proximity to large employers. A local steering committee identifies a preferred location, KEDCO then pursues site control, manages a request-for-proposals (RFP) process to identify a developer and builder for the property, and serves as a point-of-contact for project, helping with communication and negotiation needed for local support required to move the project forward.

Progress with the initiative

To-date, KEDCO has agreements in place with the City of Warsaw, Kosciusko County, and the Towns of Etna Green, Milford, Pierceton, and Syracuse to promote housing development.

KEDCO is currently focused on expanding housing in high-potential areas in proximity to large employers, with the goal of reducing commute times for employees who currently live outside the area.

What would you do with an extra 5-8 hours per week? Less time commuting could mean more time with family and loved ones, more opportunities to volunteer or pursue interests and hobbies within the community, and more time to connect and build new relationships––and that’s just a short list.

“This strategy benefits both existing workers and new talent who want to live in the area, while supporting local employers who are trying to fill open jobs,” said Kosciusko County Commissioner Cary Groninger.

At the same time, KEDCO is focusing efforts on geographic areas that otherwise likely would not have active housing development. This reduces some risk for developers, creates new visibility for these areas for additional housing development, and accelerates the development process by generating “shovel ready” sites.

Stay tuned for announcements this year from 1-2 local communities about single-family housing developments, and 1-2 mixed-use development projects, including multi-family housing, which altogether will bring more than 250 new residential units to Kosciusko County!

Learn more about KEDCO and how the organization is making an impact in Kosciusko County by visiting Connect with KEDCO on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram @kosciuskoedc.