FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — By 2032, Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Michelle Chambers (D, at-large) would like to see affordable housing throughout Fort Wayne.

That journey started with an ordinance she introduced last month to incentivize affordable housing development in any part of the city, not just in economic development targeted areas (EDTA).

“This really helps us attract quality, affordable housing developers to the city of Fort Wayne,” she told WANE 15.

She cited a report that Indiana has only 38 affordable units available per 100 extremely low income families.

Chambers’ proposal moved forward Tuesday night by a 7-1 vote. It will likely receive final approval at the next meeting.

Chambers said her idea is easy to understand: put affordable housing where people want to live, work and play.

“That makes us more attractive as a city where we can attract more qualified affordable housing developers,” she explained.

“This is a win for us. We have a lot of tools for economic development for commercial real estate. Now we need to really improve our affordable housing economic development tools.”

Chambers cited red-bricked Randall Lofts, 206 Pearl Street near the Landing as an example of affordable housing done right, with its mix of great location and an income limit for residents.

Because the building was redeveloped with low income housing tax credits, residents cannot earn more than 60% of the area’s median income. The rents are calculated using federal guidelines.

“This development happened because at that time, it was an EDTA but now we can take this development and model it throughout the entire city.”

Kunal Chothani is the Vice President of Acquisitions for The Michaels Organization, which operates Randall Lofts.

“It was an easy investment decision for us just seeing the direction that the city of Fort Wayne is headed in,” he told WANE 15 via Zoom.

Chothani said affordable housing is essential to a thriving downtown.

“Think about restaurant workers, custodial workers, and even some some city employees that could qualify to live in the building. Given Randall Lofts location, it puts them in a position where they’re able to walk to work, they’re able to walk to the restaurant scene and walk to the other amenities that the city has been building out along the Riverfront.”

Chambers, a former realtor and loan officer, would like to see similar developments near hospitals and factories. She tried to dissuade people from thinking affordable housing developments would lower neighboring property values.

“Actually it helps to eliminate blight and encourages neighbors to improve their housing,” she explained. “It does not affect the average cost of your home because of the heavily-regulated state mandates.”

Chothani agreed.

“The quality of the homes is really no different than market-rate counterparts; that’s what allows them to blend right into the community. If you were to walk by, you wouldn’t be able to distinguish between Randall Lofts and any other apartment community in downtown Fort Wayne.

“In some cases, there is a higher burden of quality required using low income housing tax credits than if you were just a market-rate developer,” he said.