INDIANAPOLIS - A statewide effort to promote affordable housing through sustainable design is widening its focus to reach some of the most underserved Hoosiers. Moving Forward is taking its efforts rural, and organizers have selected three teams to help breathe new, green life into properties throughout the state.

Indianapolis-based nonprofit Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) partnered to launch Moving Forward in 2015. Under the statewide effort, housing developments are either planned or currently underway in Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Indianapolis, East Chicago and Gary. Now, the initiative is targeting at least 30 properties in rural areas throughout Indiana to rehabilitate into affordable, sustainable living options for people in need.

“There are 472 of these properties scattered across our state, and many of them were built in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and they’re tired and they need some rehab,” says IHCDA Executive Director Jacob Sipe. “And they serve a purpose in our rural communities. Many of these properties provide affordable, safe housing for some of our special needs populations, so some of our elderly, persons with disabilities and single parents.”

IHCDA selected Decatur-based Biggs Development, Justus Property Management in Nappanee and Columbus, Ohio-based Woda Cooper Companies, which also has an Indianapolis office, to oversee the projects. The companies are currently working on identifying the properties they will work on, ahead of a November workshop with Energy Systems Network to talk to subject matter experts and determine short-term and long-term goals.

Each developer will be eligible for low-income housing tax credits and multifamily bonds as they each develop and implement plans to bundle multiple properties into one multifamily portfolio.

“To put it in perspective, we’re talking about at least 30 properties,” says Sipe. “Traditionally in our state, to preserve these properties, we’re only doing about two or three a year currently for the last 10 years or so.”

The projects, organizers hope, will result in a jump in much-needed affordable housing throughout the state for some of Indiana’s most vulnerable populations. Sipe says an important way to drive down costs for residents is to use sustainable design and renewable energy. He says that’s why the partnership with Energy Systems Network is crucial; the organization can bring in technical experience and building best practices to promote sustainability.

ESN will share that expertise during the November workshop. Sipe says the developers will really start honing in on the 30 properties in the first quarter of 2019, with construction set to begin in the spring of 2020.

The rural projects mark the latest iteration of the Moving Forward effort. Officials will cut the ribbon this fall on a new housing development in Fort Wayne, and a project in Bloomington is underway. Crews will break ground later this year or early next year on developments in Indianapolis and Lafayette, and plans are in the works for projects in East Chicago and Gary.

Sipe says taking the effort rural shows Moving Forward is achieving its goals of not shying away from complex challenges, while developing new affordable housing and preserving existing affordable options for the highest-need Hoosiers.