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To attract talent and businesses, our Region should consider a wide variety of housing stock and plan for future growth. When relocating to a new place people often evaluate the housing stock, including rental properties.

Personally, out of graduate school I moved to California and looked for an apartment to rent. Unsure if California was a place I’d live short term or long term it made sense to rent instead of buy.

My neighbors in California included a police officer and his amazing K-9, a hospital executive who recently moved from Texas, a retired professional battling cancer and a medical caretaker who recently relocated to Fresno. Some of these people planed to live in the community long term, and for others it was temporary. The top non-job-related reason why residents leave multi-family communities is to buy or build a new home. Renting is a gateway to home ownership and construction of new homes.

In California, I moved into what is called “luxury multi-family housing.” Sounds fancy, but these apartments generally have higher building standards for apartments and amenities, which calls for higher rent. Luxury multi-family housing can take shape in a variety of ways from a redeveloped building in an urban area, transit oriented development, or in suburban areas like The Lakes of Valparaiso.

In Northwest Indiana this type of housing is hard to come by and development is lagging. In Porter County there’s about 552 apartments currently in the development pipeline, zero in Lake County. In fact, south Lake County hasn’t seen a new apartment community besides Weiss Entities’ Prairie Point community in south Merrillville in 20 years.

Luxury multi-family housing would allow more people to test Northwest Indiana as their future home. “More than 75 million people are entering the housing market, primarily as renters, but renting is not just for the younger generations anymore. Increasingly, baby boomers and other empty nesters are trading single-family homes for the convenience of rental apartments,” according to a study published by the National Multi-Family Housing Council (NMHC) in June of 2017.

However, rental properties get a bad rap in NWI. I often hear concerns such as: Rental properties means higher crime; rental properties will drive our property values down; and, we do not need new people to move here.

To counter these points: First, NWI absolutely needs new people to move here. Our Region’s population growth is stagnant, which is a detriment to our prosperity. If our Region wants job growth we also need to grow the talent pool for jobs to come here.

Second, in NWI, there have been no signs of increased crime or decreased property values in areas with luxury multi-family housing. Third, the median household income of residents at The Lakes of Valparaiso, an award-winning new development, is over twice the average of the median household income of Valparaiso. At this income level residents can afford twice the average home values.

Lastly, if you’re curious about demand for this type of housing: within seven months of completion, The Lakes of Valparaiso is near full occupancy.

Our Region needs to adapt to housing demands and changes. I encourage our Region to consider smart growth planning and development inclusive of a wide variety of housing options to better attract and retain people; which will grow our talent pool and attract jobs to our Region.

Leah Konrady is president and CEO of One Region. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.