No place like … Hancock County?

HANCOCK COUNTY — New homes in Hancock County continue to pop up, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

According to estimates from the bureau, the number of housing units — a house, apartment, group of rooms or a single room occupied or intended for occupancy as separate living quarters — has increased 3 percent since 2010.

In 2010, Hancock County had 28,125 housing units, according to the 2010 Census. This year, it’s estimated there are 28,881.

Hancock is the fifth-fastest-growing county — in terms of housing units — in central Indiana. It falls behind Johnson, Hendricks, Hamilton and Boone, which saw the largest increases.

The growth has local officials feeling optimistic.

The uptick in housing could be a sign of economic improvements, said Mike Dale, county plan director. While no major apartment or subdivision project has been built in the county since 2010, residents are taking advantage of land sitting empty since the recession, he said.

In addition, lender fees and mortgage rates are looking more favorable than in recent years, and people are feeling more comfortable investing in property, he said.

“We had a surplus in undeveloped lots in subdivisions that are now being used,” Dale said. “People looking to build homes will find land here, close to Indianapolis.”

The county’s number of housing units has increased about 1 percent each year since 2010, estimates show.

Tonya Galbraith, McCordsville town manager, said the housing numbers don’t surprise her. The town has seen an increase in residential permits during the past few years, she said.

“It’s where we need to be,” she said. “We, like everyone else, weathered through the recession and hoped to see the economy rebound back, and it is. We’re always happy to see people move to McCordsville.”

Greenfield hasn’t seen the same growth McCordsville has in the past few years, but residential building permits have increased since 2010, said Joanie Fitzwater, city planner.

There were 64 single-family and multifamily home building permits in 2010. In 2014, there were 96.

“It’s not quite double, but I think it’s still pretty good,” Fitzwater said. “It is on the upswing.”

Growth in housing units and population is a trend for most counties in central Indiana.

People are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Marion County, said Gina Rininger, a Hancock County Realtor for F.C. Tucker Co. That could mean Hancock is primed for further development in coming years, she said.

“I think we will see a shortage of existing lots,” Rininger said. “Now there is confidence to buy and build houses, but developers weren’t sticking their necks out there during the recession.”

Estimates released last month from the Census bureau showed Hancock County ranks 15th among fastest-growing counties in terms of population in the state — down from its third-place ranking when the 2010 numbers were released.

The data shows that Hancock grew by nearly 3 percent to 71,978 residents, which is nearly 2,000 more residents than in 2010.

But a 3 percent growth in Hancock County isn’t close to the growth other central Indiana counties are seeing.

Boone County — which boasts the highest increase in housing units of the counties surrounding Indianapolis — saw a 9.3 percent increase in population since 2010. Hamilton County saw a 10.2 percent increase in population and a 9 percent increase in the number of housing units.

Johnson County is growing — both in population and housing units — at a faster rate than Hancock, while Shelby and Morgan counties are growing at a slower rate.

County officials do their best to keep zoning and development ordinances and the permit process that goes along with them easy to navigate for both big developers and first-time homeowners. This makes investing in Hancock County more attractive, Dale said.

“We’ve heard from builders and developers that Hancock County is among the easiest to go through for permits,” he said. “I’d say our process is pretty predictable: If you’ve done it before, the permit process is easy; if not, it can be more difficult to understand. But we’re always looking for ways to improve efficiency here.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or