Development of housing options is key to city, county’s growth

Bartholomew County’s population from 2013 to 2017 grew at basically the same rate as that for the United States, 3.1 percent for the county and 3 percent for the nation.

Both exceeded the state’s rate for the period, 1.5 percent.

Local government and business leaders said growing at the same rate as the U.S., and faster than the state, was good news, as was the fact that growth wasn’t so fast that infrastructure couldn’t keep up.

While the time period represented steady growth overall, a concern within the U.S. Census Bureau data is that gains in Bartholomew County are slowing almost to crawl. After adding 778 residents from 2013 to ‘14, and 936 from 2014 to ‘15, the annual increase dipped to 587 from 2015 to ‘16 and plummeted to 167 from 2016 to ‘17.

The trend does not bode well for the city’s efforts — increasing education and skill levels, a talent attraction campaign — to produce more workers for more than 1,000 open jobs that exist.

One of the main barriers to greater and quicker population growth is a shortage of available housing, Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.

“If we had more room for people, we would have more people here,” he said.

As the city considers its future and strategic planning for it, one things is clear: Housing development must pick up to meet the demand for people who would like to live where they work.

In an Envision Columbus strategic planning stakeholder session last week, a need for housing that would serve middle-income families, as well as low-income households, was emphasized.

Also clear is that efforts to improve perceptions about Columbus being a great place to live, work and play must continue.

We believe that three-part statement to be true, but the “live” aspect can’t be part of the equation for people if they are unable to find a home here.

If an individual or family passes on a chance to live in Columbus for lack of housing options, that’s a missed opportunity for the city to benefit. And that would be a shame.

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