HAND conference addresses housing issues

Doug May, CICOA director of planning and quality assurance, leads a breakout session on “Boomers and Senior Housing.” (photo by Sam Elliott)

Doug May, CICOA director of planning and quality assurance, leads a breakout session on “Boomers and Senior Housing.” (photo by Sam Elliott)

By Sam Elliott

Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development hosted its first Neighborhoods NOW conference Nov. 10 at the Forum Conference Center in Fishers.

The event brought together area experts speaking throughout the day on issues revolving around general affordability, growth and jobs, baby boomers and senior housing needs and neighborhood development across Hamilton County. Residents and local leaders, as well as nonprofits, developers, real estate professionals and local legislators and policy makers were on hard to discuss the best practices of community development for Indianapolis’ metropolitan areas moving forward.

“It’s been a blast,” Nate Lichti, HAND executive director, said. “The turnout is fantastic. We’ve got over 100 people here from every community and every cross-section of private business, public employees, elected officials — it’s been amazing and the conversations have been right on point around the issues that affect the community. There’s been a lot of affordable housing support, for meeting seniors’ needs or issues like jobs.”

Attendees chose from a variety of breakout sessions and workshops, led by Hamilton County experts and community leaders, that discussed fair housing, transit, housing and healthcare, seniors, schools and sheltering, among other topics.

“It’s really important that these conversations are happening, so a lot of credit goes to Hamilton County and HAND specifically for making the conversations happen,” said John Marron, a policy analyst at the IU Public Policy Institute who was part of a panel focused on seniors’ housing needs. “Having conversations like this, where you get the public sector, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector to sit together and have conversations about how do we understand the problem and how do we do something about it going forward is really important.”

Putting representatives from those different sectors together in one room, HAND hoped to help foster relationships that can make a difference for Hamilton County.

“We want to get to know better those that are working in the development of affordable housing or want to do development of affordable housing in Hamilton County, as well. We like to make those connections,” said Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, who help lead a workshop. “We have a very good relationship with HAND and certainly we want to get the fair housing message out so people understand what it is so they don’t unknowingly discriminate.”