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Group launches $15M loan fund for housing near IndyGo stops

Hayleigh Colombo

The Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership has launched a loan fund intended to create and preserve affordable housing along the city’s public transportation lines. 

The $15 million Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Fund was launched in collaboration with Michigan-based Cinnaire, a community development financial institution with offices in Indianapolis, which will manage the fund. 

INHP will be the fund’s sole borrower and will acquire existing buildings or vacant or underused properties, with the goal of maintaining or developing mixed-use, mixed-income housing.

The ultimate objective of the fund is to preserve or spur development of 1,000 affordable housing units within close distance of an Indianapolis transit stop over the next five years. The units would be leased to eligible tenants.

“We believe everyone should have equal opportunity to live in a neighborhood with easy access to employment, health care, child care, education, food and support services,” said INHP president and CEO Moira Carlstedt.

John Marron, director of strategic planning for IndyGo, said the fund would help “ensure housing costs remain affordable in locations with easy access to transit” as the IndyGo bus service undergoes an expansion in Indianapolis with an increase in service and creation of three bus rapid transit lines. 

The fund is composed of $12 million in lending capital from First Merchants Bank, National Bank of Indianapolis, Lake City Bank and First Financial Bank. It also has $3 million in equity funding: $1.5 million from the INHP, $1 million from the city of Indianapolis and a $500,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. The fund already has $5 million in lines of credit contributed by banks; and the rest is in various stages of closing, according to INHP.

The idea of the fund is to give the INHP access to more low-interest financing to complete more projects. 

Rick Laber, Cinnaire’s executive Vice President for new ventures, said he is encouraged by the initial interest from banks to participate in the fund. 

“This couldn’t happen without the bankers having a heart for the mission of what we’re talking about,” Laber said. “This needed to be low-cost, patient capital. The banks have stepped up with low-cost, patient capital.”

The city of Indianapolis’ contribution comes from Department of Metropolitan Development funds, according to a city spokesperson.

“Today is a fantastic day for the city of Indianapolis,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “This tremendous partnership will make our city a more equitable city, a more thriving city, and … one that is a prime example of a public drive partnership done well.”

So far, INHP has acquired two properties using the fund, 401 Southern Avenue near Garfield Park, and 2163 N. Illinois St., which is north of downtown. Both stops are close to future IndyGo Red Line stops.

“We’ll see activity on these parcels hopefully soon,” said Carlstedt.

The initiative comes as the result of an idea INHP heard during the community visioning process called Plan 2020 from Indianapolis resident Gary Reiter, who thought the city had a problem with a lack of affordable housing, especially around transit routes.

INHP then conducted studies that showed his hunch was correct. It also found that transit and housing costs were eating up an average of 46 percent of Indianapolis residents’ income.

“The vision he had was to combine the ever-growing transit system with the problem he saw as a shortage of affordable housing,” said Joe Hanson, INHP’s executive vice president for capital development and strategic initiatives. “This tool is intended to address both of those challenges. It addresses the lack of supply of safe, decent affordable housing but more importantly, aligns that with high-quality, frequent, reliable transit. It’s about creating those opportunities for inclusive economic mobility.”

Carlstedt said the fund was also made possible because of a $26.6 million grant in 2015 from the Lilly Endowment to INHP, which helped fund INHP’s contribution.

“They said to the board and staff, ‘Seize opportunities, be innovative and do more of what you do well,’” Carlstedt said. “The equitable transit fund is an example of seizing opportunity and being innovative.”

Council OKs putting mass-transit tax hike on November ballot
May 9, 2016
Hayleigh Colombo

Marion County voters will have another choice to make in November’s election—whether to approve an income-tax increase to pay for expanded mass-transit service.

The measure to put the question on November’s ballot was approved 18-6 Monday night by the full City-County Council. The measure first passed the council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee on April 26.

If the November referendum passes, Marion County could levy a income-tax increase of 0.25 on residents. That would be 25 cents for every $100 of income to pay for increased public transit.

“This is about a system that will not improve if we don’t find a way to fund it,” said Republican Councilman Jeff Miller. “I trust the voters come November will look at the impact to them and make a personal decision.”

Democrat Zach Adamson said he has been “waiting five years” to cast a vote to put the referendum on the ballot.

The tax increase would help fund the IndyGo Marion County Transit Plan, which includes extended service hours, shorter wait times, and the creation of three rapid-transit bus lines.

One big part of the transit plan is the Red Line, a rapid-transit bus line that could eventually run from Westfield to Greenwood at a projected cost of $170 million to $200 million.

In Marion County, the first 13-mile phase, which would run from 66th Street in Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis, is expected to cost $96 million to build and another $6 million annually to operate. Construction is expected to start in spring 2017, with routes open for service in fall 2018.

The Marion County portion of the Red Line is expected to receive $75 million from a federal grant, which would cover most of its construction costs. The annual operating funds would be covered by the tax levy.

If the referendum doesn’t pass in November, the first phase of the Red Line would still move forward. There also will be more “real-time” transit information available, such as the arrival times of buses.

But “improvements to hours, service, connections, and wait times will be more difficult to make,” according to IndyGo’s website.

Some opposition to the Red Line has surfaced in recent months, with a petition garnering about 430 signatures saying that the first phase’s construction will “slow traffic, hurt existing businesses and forever alter the character of historic neighborhoods such as Arden, Broad Ripple and Meridian-Kessler.” However, a petition in support of the line has 1,385 signatures.

Not everybody at the meeting was in favor of the proposal.

“Somebody’s got to speak for the voices of people who can’t afford a tax increase,” said Democrat Joe Simpson.

But several council members said they have received “about half and half” of feedback for and against the proposal, so voters should decide.

Councilman William Oliver said he supports putting the question on the ballot because “I’m not saying what they should do; I’m giving them the opportunity to (vote).”

“I’m going to challenge those here and those watching to get involved and take a position and seek out those answers,” Oliver said.

The Indy Chamber released a statement in support of the vote, with President Michael Huber saying the council is giving voters “a voice on mass transit and an opportunity to make us a more convenient, connected city.”

Tim Maloney, senior policy director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, called the plan “ambitious yet practical and realistic.”

“If you make transit a meaningful choice for people, a lot of people will choose to take the bus instead of driving,” Maloney said. “That means cars off the road, reduced vehicle emissions; it’s a positive for the community, but you have to make it work well.”

Indy council sends transit tax hike to voters

The City-County Council on Monday night agreed to give Marion County voters the chance to raise their income taxes to pay for a major investment in public transportation: a dramatic expansion of the city bus service, including a bus rapid transit system.

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Improving the Commute – and Economic Development – With BRT

Tom Ewing, Staff Editor, Area Development (Q2-2016)

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) offers communities many advantages, but systems across the nation have met with varied measures of success.
A few years back, Indiana’s Department of Transportation (INDOT) established a website for project information on I-69 and I-465, the outer-belt that encircles Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana’s biggest metro area and capital city. INDOT explained that Operation Indy Commute is an initiative “to strategically eliminate recurring commuting bottlenecks”. Operation Indy Commute costs $65 million for new interchange capacity and access lanes.
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Indy Mass Transit Expansion Moving Ahead
Apr 27, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS –A measure that would give Marion County voters a say in expanding mass transit has taken a step forward. After a public hearing, a City-County Council committee approved a “do-pass” recommendation for the proposal, which calls for a referendum on a 0.25 percent income tax hike to fund public transportation projects. Read more…

IndyGo Red Line Selected for Federal Funding

IndyGo Red LineINDIANAPOLIS – Today, the Federal Transit Administration released its Small Starts funding recommendations for the 2017 federal fiscal year including a $75 million award for the construction of IndyGo’s Red Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. The grant adds to more than $40 million in successful competitive federal funding opportunities for IndyGo since 2012.

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