Over the past five years, the city of Fishers has approved hundreds of new apartment units, often leading residents to wonder whether there’s such a need for the deluge in rentals. But a study compiled by city planners says the suburb has room for even more.
The city’s planning and zoning department released a report late last month that looks at the number of apartments in the city and their vacancy rates. The report was compiled after councilors and Mayor Scott Fadness heard complaints from residents about the growing rate of apartment development.
The study found that 15.5% of the city’s 38,515 residential units are apartments, lower than the national average of 22%. Fishers’ rate is also lower than many other Indiana cities, including neighbors Carmel and Noblesville, which have rates of 19% and 18%, respectively.
Currently, there are 5,988 apartment units built or currently under construction in Fishers. And the average vacancy rate is 5.7%, according to a 2019 CoStar report. That’s slightly higher than the national rate of about 5.1 percent. Vacancy rates should generally be between 5% and 8% to be considered “good,” according to the Fishers report.
Tony Bagato, director of the Fishers planning and zoning department, who authored the report, said he wasn’t surprised by what he found as he researched the subject. Apartments in Fishers, especially near downtown, have leased up quickly, he said.
The report isn’t intended to show whether the city needs more apartments but rather to give residents and city officials a look into the current housing stock, he said.
Currently, the city of Fishers requires homes to at minimum be 1,600 square feet, which is larger than many other Indiana communities and exceeds the definition of a small home by the Urban Land Institute, which is 1,400 square feet. As a result, the city’s zoning laws require homes to be built with a higher square footage than may be necessary for market demand, officials said.
“We’re not arguing for more apartments, but we do need options in our housing stock to address the aging population and increase in single households with young professionals,” Bagato said.
Apartments provide smaller living options for millennials and seniors looking to downsize, but they aren’t the only answer. The city also identified a need for “missing middle” housing, which could include duplexes and townhouses or other residential development with mid-level density.
The study, citing Census data, said Fishers is expected to grow from about 93,000 residents to 131,525 by 2040, meaning even more housing options will be needed.
“It is anticipated that the variety of housing available in Fishers will need to evolve as baby-boomer and millennial generations look for places to live that meet their needs,” the study states. “Although Fishers and Hamilton County will most likely continue to have higher family households than the national average, it is important to provide more apartments to help meet the market demand for aging in place and millennials.”