‘Teachers’ Village’ planned for near east side aims to help IPS attract and retain teachers

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A “Teachers’ Village” is planned for a near east side neighborhood in hopes of revitalizing the area and retaining talented educators.

Near East Area Renewal, also known as NEAR, is spearheading the efforts to turn abandoned homes and vacant lots into affordable housing for teachers. The project is planned for the 800 to 900 block of North Rural Street.

"The houses have great bones," said John Franklin Hay, executive director of NEAR.

Renderings for the project line a wall inside the NEAR office, located on a corner of 10th and Rural. This part of Indianapolis has been plagued by crime in the past. But, there's an effort to turn things around.

"If we can overwhelm the blight in cooperation with IMPD and our neighbors, good strategies are working out," Hay said. "We are really trying to respond to the issues here."

NEAR is working closely with the City of Indianapolis and Indianapolis Public Schools. Mayor Joe Hogsett has been a proponent of low-cost housing for teachers since before he was sworn into office.

"When you can turn those into occupied owned houses, that stabilizes Rural Street in a way that it hasn't been in a generation," said Jeff Bennett, deputy mayor of community development.

Hay said 20 houses will be rehabilitated or built in an area that's within about a mile of seven schools. Prices for the homes will be around $130,000.

"Teachers don't make that much starting out, maybe $40,000," HAy said. "That's really the threshold for a home of say $150,000 or $160,000. There are not really a lot of homes available in that range."

Statistics from Downtown Indy Inc. reveal the average price of a single home in the downtown area is around $340,000. A group called TeachPlus released a memo showing teachers face challenges when trying to live near the schools where the work. Additionally, IPS loses about 300 teachers a year.

Both Bennett and Hay see the teachers' village as a way to potentially hold on to more of those teachers.

"When you can develop a product that is finish and that remains affordable for buyers at the income level of young teachers, that's a key part of comprehensive community development," Bennett said.

"We are here and we are going to make a difference for the long haul," Hay said.

A groundbreaking for the project is expected in November. Hay said they also plan to hold town halls with teachers to get the word out about the project.