The studio began its work by researching the neighborhood of Indian Mound: what role does housing play in this community, and how can an affordable, net zero home benefit its prospective new owners and the larger neighborhood? What the studio observed is that the neighborhood is a diverse community, build on a history of blue-collar prosperity: modest homes built largely by working class families, some of which still live in the neighborhood today. Today the neighborhood of Indian Mound has 3739 individual single family housing units and a population of 12,746 people [2016 Census].
In the past decades, the neighborhood’s housing units have quickly turned over from owner-occupied homes into rental units. Today 38% of homes are rented, and half of this rental housing is owned by owners based outside of Kansas City or the state of Missouri. Yet for the median household income of $26,167 in Indian Mound, the median rent in the neighborhood has risen in the past decade to an unaffordable $790 [2016 Census], and the Kansas City Eviction Project cites 1455 evictions in recent years (2006-2016). Another pressure on housing in the neighborhood is the deteriorating condition of housing in the (see the Myth of the Fixer-Upper House), which has left nearly hundreds of vacant houses and parcels in Indian Mound, including a large number of unsafe buildings. In the last 22 years, only 1 new home has been built in the neighborhood.
The overall state of housing in the neighborhood is a paradox: while the condition of housing is declining, housing units are disappearing from the neighborhood (5% were lost in the last decade), demand for housing remains high, leaving an ideal situation for homes to sell to investment landlords rather than to long-term homeowners. With numerous property listings in the neighborhood available at bargain prices, it may seem that this would be an easy neighborhood for homeowners to invest in. The studio’s research sought to ask: why aren’t homeowners investing in Indian Mound, and how can new infill housing help solve this problem?