A housing study will be undertaken this year for the city of Warsaw, the county and Kosciusko County Community Foundation.

Warsaw Board of Public Works and Safety approved an agreement Friday between the city and High Performance Government for HPG to complete a housing strategy. The cost is $70,000, with the city paying $20,000 of it; Kosciusko County paying $20,000; and KCCF paying $30,000.

Mayor Joe Thallemer said, “The city has been seriously looking and working toward creating some incentives for workforce-style level housing. What we determined is that it’s critical that we identify those areas where we are short. Not just speculative, but we need data to determine where our shortfalls are.”

At that point, he said it would be easier for the city to come up with an incentivized program. He said they determined that any program has to be data-driven, and it will need to be periodically updated.

“The city has been looking to do a housing study, and we are obviously very blessed in our community to have such a collaborative nature with our Foundation, with the county, all looking at doing pretty much the same thing for pretty much the same reason, and that is for workforce purposes,” Thallemer said.

He said the city will be partnering with the Foundation and county to do an “extensive” study that will result not only in data but actionable steps to address the housing issues.

Foundation CEO Suzie Light said the Foundation has heard for a while that housing in the community is an issue.

“The Community Foundation has had an opportunity to apply for a Lilly Endowment Gift 7 Community Leadership Planning Grant of $75,000. Lilly Endowment announced that October 2018, and our application was submitted March 13, 2019. Our application is addressing four issues: child care early learning, workforce development, housing and community planning,” she said.

Light said the Foundation is asking the city and county to partner with it in the housing study. Of that $75,000 grant, the Foundation is allocating $30,000 toward the housing study.

“We are looking forward to gathering the data, and making sure our community understands the information that is gathered. And helping our community move forward with what is really needed in the way of housing,” she said.

Thallemer said, “We’re excited to be able to not only partner and collaborate on a study that – we’re not just looking at workforce housing being a city issue. This is definitely an issue that’s across the entire county, and the more improvements we can make across the county, I think the better we’re going to end up with housing inventory. We’re certainly very excited about that.”

City Planner Jeremy Skinner said, “(I’m) just anxious to get started. We have some developers out there that we’ve been communicating with on housing projects and we’re hoping that this will allow us the opportunity to create strategies to make those projects successful in the future.”

At the end of the board meeting, Thallemer commented on U.S. 30.

“I sat down with the county and we are going to host a meeting with our stakeholders to review some initial concepts for the U.S. 30 project. It’ll probably occur sometime in mid to late July. We’ve already solicited several dates,” he said.

Stakeholders include fire, police, schools and elected officials.

After that meeting, he said they’ll announce a public meeting to review those initial concepts for the community to consider.

“We’re moving on that,” he said.

The project includes finding a means to reduce or reroute the traffic on U.S. 30 and thereby reducing the number of accidents along the highway.

Compared to Allen, Whitley, Marshall, Starke, Laporte and Porter counties, Kosciusko County has the most stoplights (12) and intersections (17) and is third in the number of driveway cuts (34), according to a previous newspaper article.

Environmental hurdles around the Warsaw area include lakes, soil conditions and commercial development.