AUBURN — It’s no mystery Northeast Indiana is facing a housing shortage. A recent survey attempted to examine just how serious this shortage is.

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

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

After months of surveys and gathering information from community leaders and residents, the responses were released April 20 to the Community Foundation of DeKalb County. Government leaders, builders, real estate agents and leaders of non-profit organizations were on hand to hear the results of 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 study’s goals is having good government partners working together.

“This document could have all the potential in the world, there are a lot of opportunities… If you don’t act on it, it will just remain potential,” she said.

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

Presely-Cowen said that everyone’s best estimate is that the median home value is rising rapidly due to 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 Northeast Indiana. The survey found that 2,420 households of all incomes have the potential to move to the county.

The target market for the new housing units is mixed, with the largest share of the market—43%—made up of traditional and non-traditional families; 31% are singles and younger couples and 26% empty parents and retirees. This group’s housing preferences were single-detached homes at 56%, rentals at 33%, townhouses at 8% and condominiums at 3%.

After narrowing down the target market, the survey results highlighted rental and new home prices for the DeKalb County market. Current rental units in the county range from $750 to $1,000 per month, with some larger homes costing upwards of $1,200 per month.

The target market for new construction is $150,000 to $300,000, which represents 70% of housing in the county.

After presenting the results, Ryan Chasey, director of operations for the Housing Resource Hub, outlined a few potential projects in LaGrange County that could be used as models for DeKalb County.

The first, a mixed-use structure, including retail on the ground floor, apartments on levels 2 and 3, and townhouses on the south end of the complex. The complex will be located at the southeast corner of US 20 and SR 9.

He said the site, which had several vacant buildings, was full of potential. To bring the project to fruition, LaGrange committed pre-development funding for the $21 million project.

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

Two other projects in Shipshewana and Topeka are still in the development phase, but if they materialize, they will include villas, lakeside cabins, family homes and pocket neighborhoods.

The Shipshewana project is located on the outskirts of town next to Shipshewana-Scott Elementary School and would include 103 units on 30 acres.

The Topeka project would be developed on a site currently owned by the city and would feature a similar layout to Shipshewana.

Presley-Cowen said each of the projects was eligible for Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) funds and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. According to her, the key to these developments is the mix of housing because there is something for everyone.

She highlighted an emerging trend among Gen Z and Millennials seeking smaller yards and more common spaces, including parks and walking paths.

In conclusion, Presley-Cowen said the next step is to continue to come together as a community to continue the discussion and bring it to life.

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