A Greenwood man will help decide which programs the state should have to help to keep Hoosiers in their homes.
Gov.-elect Mike Pence recently appointed Jacob Sipe as the new Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority executive director, and Sipe will start the full-time position in January. He has been interim executive director since July and has worked at the department since 1999.
In his new role, Sipe will oversee the department’s programs and determine how much state or federal money those programs will receive. The state office has an energy assistance program, which gives residents money to help pay utility bills, and a homeless prevention program, which gives residents money to pay rent and help them remain in their homes.
Sipe said he is interested in how housing effects a community and likes working with the department because its programs help families improve their quality of life.
THE SIPE FILE
Name: Jacob Sipe
New position: Executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority
Previous positions: Production analyst, director of multifamily department, director of community services, chief real estate development officer
Education: Indiana University
As executive director, he has multiple goals, including having developers build affordable apartments and houses in areas where they can help improve the community. The state department often considers the number of new low-cost homes built as its success story, but he said he would rather see developers who receive tax credits from the state focus on improving the community, as well.
Developers could look at buildings in the downtown areas of smaller cities, such as Franklin, that have been vacant for years. Building in those locations would allow cities to collect property taxes where they hadn’t before and could prompt cities to improve parks, sidewalks and roads in those areas, Sipe said.
He said also wants to improve customer service in his office by making sure policies are clear and that the organizations who receive state and federal funding understand what is expected of them. If the agencies know what’s expected, they won’t waste money, he said.
As part of that customer service, Sipe wants the department to provide more information about local communities for those organizations.
For example, if a developer wants to build a senior housing facility, his office could provide information on the demand for senior housing, what services were needed, the best location, how close the facility would need to be to health care facilities and how much rent should be, Sipe said.
“We collect a lot of information,” he said. “But we need to put it in a format to help make decisions. They’re not getting the best access to the information.”
Sipe said he also wants to study trends among participants in the department’s programs, such as the homeless prevention and energy assistance programs, to see how the state can better address common problems to help people stay in their homes.
The state office took on the homeless prevention and energy assistance programs in recent years and gives money to organizations throughout the state. Those organizations then give money to residents for their utility bills and rent, Sipe said. In Johnson County, the department provides federal funds for energy assistance through Human Services.
Because his office now oversees both programs, Sipe and other officials have been able to see how the two programs are connected. Families that need help paying their utility bills could need help later paying their rent and staying in their homes, he said.
“With those programs housed under one organization, we can study them a little closer and have a better analysis of what’s taking place,” Sipe said.
By noticing trends, the state can provide funding for additional programs that help keep Hoosiers in their homes. For example, he said, the state could help with programs that send people back to school so they can get better-paying jobs and won’t have to worry about not having money to pay their bills.