ANDERSON — Chad Lukens is a busy man these days, and a lot of his work is happening in Madison County.

Lukens owns a building company that’s working on several homes in the southwestern part of the county. That area — mainly including Fall Creek, Stony Creek and Green townships — is a large part of why the county is bucking a recent trend of declining applications for new home building permits across central Indiana.

According to a recent report in the Indianapolis Business Journal, such applications had dropped by 13% overall in June in the nine-county region and were down in six of the nine counties compared to June 2018. But in Madison County, permit filings more than doubled in that time period.

“The land is a little more affordable here,” Lukens said, “especially for a lot of middle income families. They have a dream of building, and in Madison County the price per acre is a little more reasonable than it is in, say, Hamilton County.”

Madison County, with its proximity to one of the fastest growing suburbs in the country, is positioned well to take advantage of the continuing growth of Fishers and its diverse business sector.

“One of the biggest reasons we’re seeing (more new housing), particularly as you get closer to Indianapolis, is access to jobs and quality health care,” said Brad Newman, director of the Madison County Planning Department. “You’re also not far from a lot of entertainment options at Hamilton Town Center. We’re seeing a lot of increase in that area because of good schools as well. And construction costs in general are cheaper.”

The ripple effect is reaching into other parts of the county. In particular, Anderson, after two relatively stagnant years in 2015 and 2016, is enjoying an upswing in new single-family units, with 15 built already this year compared to 11 all of last year.

Tim Stires, Anderson’s assistant director of municipal development, says many of the city’s new homes are being built in the Apple Downs subdivision off East 67th Street behind the Meijer store. That location, he says, allows people to build more expensive homes at more reasonable prices, and yet remain within easy driving distance of the northern Indianapolis suburbs.

“That seems to be what we’re hearing from prospective new home builders,” Stires said. “They can get the same size house for a lot cheaper cost than building in neighborhoods closer to Indianapolis.”

The city’s residential tax abatement program for newly constructed single-family homes also continues to entice prospective residents, Stires said. The program, instituted in 1995, offers a three-year window for new homeowners to gradually increase their property tax payments until they’re paying 100% of those taxes in the fourth year.

“We keep renewing that program, and for good reason,” Stires said. “It’s a good way, especially if you’re a first-time buyer, to kind of ease yourself into setting up your household.”

With a vibrant economy and unemployment hovering at near record lows, many builders seem convinced that demand in Madison County will remain steady — and the home building slump across the rest of the region will soon turn around.

“The (area’s) school systems need to maintain their great ratings,” Lukens said, “and interest rates in the next year or two need to stay relatively at all-time lows.

“As a whole in the economy, the lower unemployment rates, all that plays into it,” he added. “Job security plays into somebody feeling comfortable taking on a home building project as opposed to staying where they’re at.”
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