Hamlet’s town council president has a new housing goal. “I think that an ‘unrealistic’ goal – I kind of thought of this and just to kind of throw it out at you guys to see what you thought – is ’22 by ’22,’ and what I mean, 22 houses by 2022,” Dave Kesvormas told the rest of the council Wednesday.
He suggested that the first step might be to seek a developer for a piece of town-owned property. “What if we were to say if somebody builds a house in 120 days, that we’ll waive the $7,500 cost and they can have the lot for free, some kind of incentive to do that or at least develop that as a goal or something?” he proposed.
Kesvormas hoped that by developing that one lot, the town would encourage more construction. “If we build one house, I think it’ll be contagious, I really do,” he said. “I think if it’s there, it’ll create a little bit of excitement. Not a cheap, low-budget house, probably what I’d call middle-income, above-middle, in the upper bracket of it. I’m not trying to discriminate against anybody housing-wise, just, I think, that’s our need.”
He noted that while his 22-house goal may seem daunting, there have been a few projects that seemed impossible a few years ago but have now been completed, such as the Starke Street sidewalk. “We are sitting in a diamond in the rough right off of Highway 30,” he added. “We’re an hour to South Bend/Mishawaka. We’re an hour to Elkhart. We’re almost an hour and some change to Chicago, hour and some change to the steel mills in Gary. Our location is prime. The infrastructure is there, for the road is pretty prime, as long as they don’t jack with 30.”
Kesvormas has long advocated for more housing in Hamlet, but his comments Wednesday were also a direct response to a discussion that took place during Monday’s special Oregon-Davis School Board meeting. School Board President Chris Lawrence specifically cited the area’s lack of housing options as a barrier to recruiting new students and holding onto current ones.
Hamlet and other Starke County communities are teaming up to apply for a Stellar Community designation to address some of the issues facing the region. But Kesvormas didn’t think the town could rely on a Stellar designation to fix the town’s housing challenges. “When I watch Stellar movies, we hear about dog parks, the arts, and bike trails and all kinds of other things,” he said, “and at least my interpretation of reading Stellar is that housing is down at the bottom of the list.” At the same time, officials with the Stellar program often look favorably upon communities that are willing to move ahead on local projects, even without Stellar funding.
In the end, the other town officials agreed that the “22 by ’22” goal was something worth aiming for.