The primary target of the two Residential TIF Districts the city of Warsaw wants to create is single-family homes with children.

At the first of four public hearings on the tax increment finance districts Wednesday at Eisenhower Elementary School, City Planner Jeremy Skinner said there could be other types of homes, but that was the primary target.

The other three meetings will be at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Eisenhower and at 5:30 p.m. today and Oct. 28 at Harrison Elementary. Maps of the two proposed TIF districts – one “north” and the other “south” – are on the city’s website and Facebook page.

Skinner said the state criteria for a municipality having a Residential TIF District is “based on a no more or less than 1% of new homes being constructed based on your current number of houses.” For the city of Warsaw to meet the criteria – which has 4,200 single-family residences constructed – it would have to build, over the last three years, less than an average of 42 new homes a year. Skinner said over the last three years, the city has averaged 31 new homes constructed per year, so it meets the state’s criteria.

As part of the process, the city submitted an application to the state. It’s having four public hearings within the proposed districts. The Redevelopment Commission will look at approving a designating resolution for those two districts at its Nov. 4 meeting. That resolution then would go to the Plan Commission, Common Council and Warsaw School Board for their approval, and then go back to the Redevelopment Commission for a confirming resolution. The Redevelopment Commission’s meeting on the confirming resolution also would be a public hearing.

The life span of the districts would be 20 years. The base assessed valuation would be established as 2019. “Anything new that was added to that, that was residential, would be collected by the Residential TIF District. It’s only going to collect taxes generated by new development,” Skinner said.

“Our goal is to create new and diverse workforce housing opportunities in Warsaw by developing a variety of housing options, establishing a mixture of affordable levels,” he said.

A woman asked him to define affordable levels and asked him what the city was looking at for homes in the Eisenhower area.

Skinner said the city doesn’t know yet because it’s in the middle of having a housing study completed, with the study expected to be completed by year’s end. Along with the city, the county and Kosciusko County Community Foundation commissioned the study by HPG Network.

Asked by City Council candidate Chris Plack what he meant by workforce housing, Skinner said what the city was looking to incentivize was not affordable housing like Little Crow Lofts or the planned senior housing on Market Street. “We’re talking about market-rate affordable housing,” he said, which is in the range of $180,000-$250,000. However, until the housing study is completed and tells the city what gaps it’s not hitting as far as housing, Skinner said he doesn’t know for sure what kind of housing is needed.

Asked by Paul Scheuer what the city will do with the TIF districts, Skinner said, “The TIF districts are going to give us a set of tools that I talked about. We don’t have a defined ‘we’re going to do this, we’re going to build a road, we’re going to put sanitary sewer in.’ We don’t have any defined plans at this point.”

He said the first step was to create the district. The second step is whether or not the district creates any revenue. If no revenue is created, Skinner said there will be no new buildings and the city won’t be able to do anything. If a developer comes to the city and tells it of his plan for property in the district, which would generate some dollars for the district, the city could sit down with the developer to see how the district could incentivize the project to get it going.

A woman asked if the TIF district would do anything to the taxes paid by the people who already live in that area. Skinner said TIF doesn’t have anything to do with taxes or tax rates. “TIF is purely a mechanism to collect funds to make improvements. So if I buy a house in a TIF district, I pay the same amount of money as if I buy a house in a non-TIF district,” he said.

Scheuer said there are currently 53 lots available for sale within the school district. “Why aren’t we looking at that?” he asked.

“We are. And those same people know those lots exist. And those same people built one house,” Skinner replied.

“Are you saying that the lots that are out there right now aren’t affordable?” Scheuer asked.

“I’m saying there’s a disconnect between that lot and building 53 homes,” Skinner answered. “If a house right now stays on the market for one day, and we’re building one of those, why is that? Why aren’t we building 53?”

Scheuer said you could and asked what was keeping a developer from building 53.

“From our conversations with developers, from our conversations with the housing group we’re working with, it’s simply the money is not available to do it,” Skinner replied. He said the city has builders and lots, but it doesn’t have access to the capital that is sustainable for them to build multiple houses at the price that they’re trying to get.

Scheuer said he’s lived on the south side of the city for a long time and has seen many of the services go away, especially the Marsh and Owen’s grocery stores. The loss of those stores has had a big impact. He asked why would any developer build homes in an area so far away from those services.

Skinner said, “That’s one of the things we’re trying to target. We were trying to – I’ll be frank with you – we tried to acquire the Marsh building. They absolutely refused to sell it. Numerous times I’ve had conversations with them. We were trying to line something up. They kept telling us, ‘we’re not selling the property, we’re not selling the property.’ They sold it to Cardinal. I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”

He said the city is trying to do the same thing with another familiar property, but the owners put restrictions on the building that it can’t be a grocery store. “So they’re selling a grocery store you can’t have a grocery in,” Skinner said.

He said it’s probably going to take a “different kind of perspective” to get some kind of possibly small store or convenience store in on the south side of town.

Scheuer said, “Without providing the services this side of town needs, you’re not going to get the growth. People are going to look at a small grocery store and say, ‘You know what, I don’t want to do that because their pricing is out of line.’”

During the meeting, Skinner and the 10 residents at the meeting discussed lack of services, housing proximity to the railroad tracks, supply and demand of housing and why people work in Warsaw but live in Fort Wayne because of lack of housing.

One of Skinner’s last comments of the meeting was, “Quite honestly, we’re trying to target single-family homes with kids for the schools. In these districts, that’s going to be our primary target. There are other areas we are targeting for higher-density developments, but most of them will probably be centered around our downtown. Some of them may be centered around the commercial shopping areas. We may focus on higher-density in those areas, but not necessarily in these (TIF) areas.”