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East Central region prioritizes spending READI grant money on housing

By Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR News | Published on in Arts and Culture, Community, Government, Local News
An abandoned home in Muncie's Old West End in 2016. A nonprofit is currently rehabbing this building. (FILE Photo: Emma Rogers)

With state READI grant money on the way, the East Central Indiana region is prioritizing where its $15 million award will be spent.  As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, the first thing on the group’s list is housing initiatives.


(Graphic: Courtesy of East Central Indiana Regional Partnership)

The East Central region tied for the second-smallest portion of the READI program’s $500 million, funded through federal coronavirus relief money.  The award and promised private matching dollars won’t pay for everything in the region’s presentation.

According to a regional partnership update this week, housing projects will come first.  The partnership says nearly nine thousand people commute daily into East Central Indiana to work, including some that live outside the state.  It acknowledges that vacant housing has increased, but says that stock is unsafe or too expensive to update.

The proposed housing funding would cover more than 150 acres and create more than 250 homes, both single-family and multi-family.  Though the region spans seven counties, housing projects are concentrated in Delaware, Henry, Grant, and Wayne counties.

At presentations in early December, the state committee awarding the READI grants said the East Central region wasn’t the only one to talk about a lack of housing.  It asked the regional committee exactly what types of housing the area needs.

The committee said it has a lack of homes with a purchase price of $100,00 – $250,000. And, an aging population presents another problem, says Corey Murphy with the New Castle – Henry County Economic Development Corporation.

“With our population, we’re a little on the older side. And so those folks are looking to maybe leave their home and go into a more age-friendly condo. In many of our communities, that age-friendly condo doesn’t exist. And so, they’re staying in a home that would be very, very appropriate for a first-time homebuyer.”

Specific home projects for funding include:

  • McKinley-Whitely Live Learn Neighborhood, Muncie, IN
  • Albany Commercial Park Initiative
  • Salem Township Shovel Ready Site Initiative
  • Yorktown Downtown Revitalization
  • Ridley Tower, Marion, IN
  • Richmond Rising: Filling the Gap Workforce Housing
  • SR 109 Infrastructure Investment, Henry County, IN

Other projects prioritized for funding include bringing high-speed broadband internet to Blackford County, funding education and career programs, and creating more public cultural spaces and trails.

With a long list of cultural and trail projects, here’s the ones prioritized to move forward:

  • Market Street Plaza, Connersville, IN
  • Grant County Performing Arts Center, Gas City, IN
  • Selma Accessibility Improvements
  • Salamonia Schoolhouse and Park Improvement Project

The full region plan called for $375 million in projects, most funded by private and local investment. That’s something the state required – regions can’t use more than 20 percent of state funds on any given project.

The READI grants are essentially a sequel to the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative.  The area competed for that grant money in 2015, but was not funded.