Rural Housing

Indiana communities seek to position themselves to achieve long-term community vitality. One of the issues that emerges as a major barrier is the limited availability of a diverse stock of quality housing, especially in rural and less populated areas of the state. Purdue Extension Community Development partners with communities and state/federal agencies to seek ways to improve the mix of housing required to meet current and future housing demand.

Purdue Extension Community Development staff conduct studies on the state, regional, county, and municipal levels to evaluate the availability and quality of housing in Indiana. This work is focused on guiding community leaders to use a data-driven, research-based, and participatory process in their communities to address current housing issues. 

This approach leverages a multi-pronged process for securing housing-related information on different geographical levels. Information is gathered via three replicable approaches: rigorous secondary data analysis, primary data collection using an online housing survey and confidential focus group/online session discussions, and strategic planning. 

Comprehensive housing data profiles include information on the state, county, and municipal housing stock. Profiles include but are not limited to the types of housing, physical housing characteristics, household characteristics, mortgage/rental costs, and occupancy/vacancy status.

A participatory process uses surveys, focus groups, online sessions, and key informant interviews to ensure that stakeholder input complements the story told by secondary data analysis. Focus group meetings and online listening sessions are held with community members to obtain their insights on housing issues in their counties. Housing online surveys are targeted to the county’s residents and employees of key businesses and industries in the region. 

The Purdue team then synthesizes the various sources of information collected and prepared an executive summary of major findings and possible strategies the region may consider in their innovative housing development programs and strategies. 

Moreover, the Purdue team hosts housing summits to disseminate the final report and results. These summits are aimed at bringing together the implementation teams, discuss key findings, and begin the process of crafting action strategies that will address housing issues in the community. The combination of local leaders and state and federal-level agencies (such as USDA-Rural Development, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs), undergirded by rigorous research, provides a unique opportunity for learning, deliberation, and planning.

To learn more about Rural Housing, contact:

Dr. Michael Wilcox 
Community Development Program Leader

Kara Salazar 
Assistant Program Leader for Community Development

Daniel Walker 
Community Development Regional Educator


An Examination of Rural Housing Development Programs, Issues, and Strategies

In response to a request by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Purdue Center for Regional Development was asked to take a brief examination of national, state, and local housing programs and/or policies that are intended to improve the availability and quality of rural housing. This includes programs that promote the growth of market-rate housing – residential and rental housing – that is priced at current market rates and are not subsidized in any way.

The final report briefly showcases a mix of federal housing programs and policies, especially those intended to address housing issues in rural areas of the U.S. It also highlights state housing programs/policies found in the nation’s 50 states. This information can be of value to the state and local leaders and organizations as they seek to assess innovative housing development programs being implemented in various states. The team also reviewed several programs enacted by the city and county governments designed to encourage the expansion of market-rate housing, particularly in areas experiencing housing shortages.

The second portion of the report provides the results of a series of focus group meetings held in seven rural communities/counties in the spring of 2016. The purpose of these sessions was to garner people’s input with a good understanding of housing issues in their respective communities or county. The report profiles each study site and outlines the key housing issues and challenges existing in the community/county. The concluding section offers a synopsis of the underlying themes emerging from the seven sites.

An Examination of Rural Housing Development Programs, Issues, and Strategies:


Parke County, Indiana

In 2022, Parke County reached out to Purdue Extension Community Development to explore housing supply, demand, including existing housing conditions and need in Parke County. Information was gathered or developed using a combination of focus group interviews, a community survey, a housing summit, secondary data sources such as the US Census, and a community engagement. The objective of this report is to provide a set of recommendations and complimentary data that can be used to inform housing, land use, and infrastructure policies in planning documents such as the Parke County Comprehensive Plan (and zoning ordinance), sub-area or neighborhood plans, and capital improvement/infrastructure plans.

Final Report (PDF)

Housing Summit Presentation (PDF)

Assessing Age-Friendly Housing Conditions and Needs in Fort Wayne

The 2018 American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Age-Friendly Survey of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was written and approved by AARP Indiana. Purdue Extension conducted the survey using a combination of online and paper formats. The online survey was conducted using Qualtrics. The paper survey was a replica of the online survey, with all necessary skip logic statements written into the directions. The survey and marketing materials were available in English and Spanish. The survey was publicly available from November 1, 2018, to December 15, 2018, and only people who confirmed that they were 45 years old or older were allowed to complete it.

Given the chosen formats of the survey, and the target population of people 45 years old or older living in the Greater Fort Wayne Area (comprised of the City of Fort Wayne along with the remainder of Allen County and all of the adjacent counties (Adams, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, Wells, and Whitley), Purdue Extension and AARP used their local, regional and statewide networks to market the survey links and provide opportunities for paper surveys to be completed.


Assessing Housing Conditions and Needs in Noble County

Noble County is actively involved in several in-depth planning activities, including developing a new, county-wide comprehensive plan and participation in the Hometown Collaboration Initiative by the county seat, Albion. In support of these efforts, and in light of the preliminary evidence that has been gathered by local decision-makers and their partners, housing has surfaced as a key constraint to address and opportunity to foster economic and community development in Noble County.

The Purdue Center for Regional Development and the Purdue Extension Community Development Program conducted multi-pronged research to secure county-level, housing-related information, along with supporting information from a subset of communities located in Noble County.

The work led by the Purdue team in partnership with Noble County includes:

  • Data profile of housing in Noble County, two Noble County cities (Kendallville and Ligonier), and three Noble County towns (Albion, Avilla, and Rome City).
  • Demographic and socioeconomic profile of Noble County.
  • Regional industry cluster analysis.
  • Focus group meetings with diverse community representatives in Albion, Avilla, Kendallville, Ligonier, and Noble County.
  • Housing survey targeted to employees of key businesses/industries in the region.
  • Hosting a housing summit in Albion, Noble County, to disseminate the final report and results and possible housing strategies.


Assessing Housing Conditions and Needs in Blackford County

Blackford County is actively involved in several housing activities, reflecting that its population is not growing. Based on this demographic trend and the latest housing study ‘Blackford County Housing Needs Assessment’ completed for the county in 2004 by Indiana Coalition on Housing and Homeless Issues, resources have been directed towards (a) the revitalization of older neighborhoods than to the development of new residential areas, (b) funding to aid homeowners in the rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes, (c) development of a licensing system via a landlord ordinance to establish minimum standards by which to operate a rental housing unit, (d) elimination of blighted residential structures, (e) and evaluation of needs for homeless/transitional housing.

As housing represents a key aspect in economic and community development in Blackford County, the Purdue Extension Community Development Program conducted research to determine housing demand and needs on the county and municipality level.

The work led by the Purdue team in partnership with Blackford County includes:

  • Data profile of housing in Blackford County and two Blackford County cities (Hartford City and Montpelier).
  • Demographic and economic profile of Blackford County.
  • Online listening sessions with diverse community representatives from Blackford County, Hartford City, Montpelier, and Shamrock Lakes.
  • Online housing survey targeted the Blackford County residents and employees of key businesses/industries in the region.
  • Hosting a hybrid (combination of virtual and in-person) housing summit and a follow-up meeting in Hartford City, Blackford County, to disseminate the final report and results and possible housing strategies.

Housing Data Profiles of Blackford County, Hartford City, and Montpelier, and Online Listening Session Report are available upon request. Please contact Zuzana Bednarikova,


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