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Dear Mayor Fadness of Fishers,

If you don’t live in Indiana, look away. For I’m about to send an electronic rant the way of my city (Fishers, IN)’s mayor…I have been whining about this problem on social media for years, and one of my friends basically (in a very nice way) suggested to me today to stop whining and send the mayor a letter instead.  So, Bailee – this one is for you…and all the other entrepreneurs in our fair city who want to try and change the world, but not go broke doing so.

Dear Mayor Fadness of Fishers, IN:

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 5.31.46 PMI’m continuing to see a disturbing trend in our city. In this post, I will attach a photo of a large section of our city and housing stock currently for sale. And, it was just taken today.

It’s difficult to see the range of property prices on this map, but there’s a range of $1,500 (for one property, which I’m guessing is a rental) all the way through to nearly a million dollars. Most are in the range of $300K+ on this map.

What I find disturbing about this map is that there are few, if any, affordable housing options listed on it currently. In fact, I live inside the boundaries of the picture attached. And candidly, if I had to shop again in this section of Fishers today, I don’t think I could afford buy a house here.

I am also a part time entrepreneur. I’m solo. I went to college, and graduate school. While I don’t have a lot of debt (zero educational debt), I do have a mortgage. Quite frankly, I hate it. I detest having a mortgage. Debt is a lot like indentured servitude; it limits one’s options. And yes, I made the choice to live here and carry debt, so I live with and deal with my choices–and I’m lucky enough to be able to pay my mortgage each month. However, I worry for the rest of our fair city–and our future.

What’s disturbing in addition to the escalating home inventory cost in the city is that the vision of the city itself, at least from my understanding, wants to be entrepreneurial. We just had a big grand opening of an IoT center in the city. We have big hopes and dreams of being a strong tech hub for startups. A lot of entrepreneurial momentum is going, which is great. But, respectfully, how can we encourage and foster entrepreneurship in our city if we don’t have affordable places for the dreamers, doers, creatives, young professionals with ambition, and risk takers to live?

This is not a new problem, it’s relatively well documented; but it is relatively new to us.

Yes, I understand we have rentals here. But does renting an apartment really tie our young professionals to the city? Not really. Nor does it give them any incentives to grow roots here. It just costs a bit less, and even worse, builds no equity for our young professionals to stay. They’ll just move on to greener and more affordable pastures, if our housing stock just keeps on escalating in price. After all, isn’t being an affordable tech hub our #1 selling point as a state? We seem to be disconnecting from this concept. This should bother you and your city council. It bothers me. Just look at San Francisco’s problem for a glimpse of our future on our current course when it comes to a housing crisis.

I’ve been following the tiny house movement for a decade or so now, as well as mixed use properties, where retail by entrepreneurs exists on the first floor, and owners live above their storefronts on the second floor. Other cities are on this – look at what Witchita is doing with MicroMansions, or Detroit–or the grandfather of them all, Tumbleweed. I just returned from SXSW where they had printed a house for $4K. What about our retirepreneurs? They need housing that’s affordable too–multigenerational living is skyrocketing with granny cottages in back yards – but can we offer this in our city? All of these options are cool and cute, too. Tiny does not need to be boring, ugly or an eyesore either. It can be awesome and a new way to live, which actually decreases financial burdens on home owners, allows them to create more flexibility and take more risk for their careers (like become entrepreneurs), and brings communities closer together.

Why don’t we try some different housing options in our city of entrepreneurs? What if we could create an affordable ecosystem where people could live without the confines of hundreds of thousands of dollars in housing debt, so they could create and thrive without worrying where the next mortgage payment is coming from? Tiny houses would be awesome, because people might actually be able to afford to take more risks with their careers and not carry mortgages, yet build equity in our city by reaching home ownership without the enslavement of a ton of debt. Considering 40% of the US workforce may be freelance by 2020, that presents some challenges from the traditional model of home ownership and/or mortgages, because freelancers do not get paid as regularly as employees.

If you truly want to be an entrepreneurial city, you’ll be worried about this as much as I am. Please stop with the granting of McMansion subdivision permits and zoning, and start considering alternative housing that is affordable and providing some zoning relief for creativity. We need to support our entrepreneurs and dreamers more than just by offering them a place to work–we need to also offer them a safe, affordable place to live. I know you know this as well when it comes to entrepreneurs finding affordable retail space in our city too – but I’ll save that problem for another post.

I’ll stop the letter for now…but I won’t stop worrying about this…nor should you.

Sincerely,

Erin L. Albert

 

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