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7/9/2018 12:00:00 PM
Alexandria most affordable Hoosier place to live, says one survey

Christopher Stephens, Herald Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA – Small Town USA has added one more reason for Hoosiers planning a move to consider the small Madison County city: it’s the most affordable place to buy a home in the state.

A new study from financial technology company SmartAsset ranked Alexandria as the most affordable place to live in Indiana, based on criteria such as property taxes, homeowners’ insurance fees and mortgage payments relative to income.

The ranking found new homebuyers in Alexandria pay lower than average property taxes and mortgage payments, while simultaneously seeing a high median income across all residents, relative to the city’s size. The July 1, 2017 census estimate for the city was 5,015. 

Sarah Wallace, who just recently moved to Alexandria after graduating from Ball State University a couple of years ago, said she can understand why Alexandria rates among the most affordable places to buy a home.

“It’s affordable for those who need it to be affordable,” Wallace said. “I grew up in Hamilton County, and you can definitely see a difference between the two.”

But just because home prices and closing costs are low, doesn’t mean everything about the city is affordable.

“If you want to go out and do something, you definitely have to drive,” she said.

For Terri Smith, a longtime Alexandria resident, there are other costs to contend with.

“Oh really,” she asked with surprise when hearing about the study’s findings. “With gas prices, and the water bill, I don’t really think so.”

Madison County ranks 439th nationally, with a median annual income around $44,000 and average yearly mortgage payments of $4,100. 

And finding an affordable place to live is important, especially for people making minimum wage.

A recent study found many low-wage workers struggle to find adequate housing even working full-time, despite the state’s reputation as an affordable place to live.

In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Indiana, renters need to earn $15.56 per hour. The report, Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing, was jointly released by Prosperity Indiana and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for the lowest income people.

“Increasingly, data shows that even working full-time, thousands of Hoosiers cannot meet basic housing costs,” said Jessica Love, Prosperity Indiana’s executive director. “The average renter wage is insufficient to afford a two-bedroom apartment in 84 of Indiana’s 92 counties.”

Working at the minimum wage of $7.25 in Indiana, a worker must have 1.7 full-time jobs or work 69 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment; or have 2.1 full-time jobs or work 86 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

“The struggle to afford modest rental homes is not limited to minimum wage workers; seven out of 10 of the jobs projected for the greatest growth over the next decade have wages lower that the one-bedroom Housing Wage,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Too often, a low wage worker must choose between paying for rent, health care, child care, and other basic necessities.”

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