Developer proposes ‘build-to-rent’ subdivision


GREENFIELD — A developer wants to bring a “build-to-rent” subdivision to Hancock County — said to be the first of its kind in the state — offering single-family homes for rent that would be owned by a single company.

JSM Development Services, based in Illinois, has proposed the 66-acre project in an unincorporated area near County Road 650N near McCordsville. After the construction is complete, it would be sold to a property management company.

JSM’s director of architecture and planning, Scott Kunkel, spoke at a recent meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners and argued the unusual development would be a good fit for the community.

The concept hasn’t been heard by the county’s plan commission yet, but Kunkel said he wanted to bring it to the commissioners first to get their opinions and answer initial questions.

“This is a really fast-growing segment of the residential housing market; it’s not really well-represented in the Midwest currently,” Kunkel said. “But it really fills a unique need in the residential market space for folks who have outgrown the traditional apartment community format, but for whatever reason choose not to live in an owner-occupied home. So it gives them the benefits of a single-family residence without some of the problems that also come with that.”

Kunkel said that could include people who can’t afford the down payment on a home, or people who only plan to live in the area for a few years and don’t want to go through the process of buying and reselling a home. It could also include people who don’t want the burden of doing exterior maintenance to their homes, like seniors and those who travel frequently. Landscaping and maintenance, he said, would be handled by the rental company.

Kunkel said the homes in the subdivision would be single-family one- or two-story homes, each with three or four bedrooms and 1,600 to 2,000 square feet. He said it would be built to the same standards as other residential developments that are meant to be owner-occupied, and outdoor maintenance would be performed regularly.

“If you were to drive through it, you wouldn’t know that it wasn’t an owner-occupied single-family development,” he said.

Monthly rent for the homes, Kunkel said, would be about $2,200.

County commissioners were intrigued by the proposal but had questions. Commissioner Marc Huber said he was concerned about the maintenance standards being upheld, especially if the properties were sold to another rental company in the future.

“My biggest concern would be how that’s enforced,” Huber said. “…Whether an individual owns it or a corporation owns it, I don’t really have an opinion on that.”

Kunkel said JSM would work with the county government to develop a covenant requiring a standard of maintenance for buildings and landscaping.

Commissioner Bill Spalding asked if there were other, similar developments in the counties around Indianapolis. Kunkel said that it would be the first of its kind in Indiana.

Mike Dale, director of the Hancock County Plan Commission, said the parcel of land could be platted according to the plan commission’s preferences and would have dedicated right of way.

Ultimately, the commissioners signalled that they would be interested in the proposal going forward.

“The younger generation’s not going to want to own as much,” Huber said. “They don’t want to mow grass; they don’t want to push snow; they don’t want to shovel walks.”

The plan commission recently had a less welcoming attitude toward rental properties, with the members considering new restrictions that would make it more difficult for rental companies to buy homes in subdivisions. Members said they were concerned about rental companies buying up large numbers of homes and reducing the owner-occupied housing available.

County attorney Gregg Morelock has advised the commission that it would likely constitute discrimination against renters to create these new provisions. Dale suggested allowing homeowners’ associations to instead create more restrictive rules in their covenants, but Morelock said that might be legally questionable as well.