Ben Carson visits Indianapolis


Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, stopped in Indianapolis on Thursday to tour the development of the P.R. Mallory campus on the city’s east side.

But he also used the Indy stop to announce the expansion of a federal program — unrelated to the P.R, Mallory development — that will boost affordable housing for low-income seniors.

Carson said the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which was enacted to preserve and improve public housing, will expand to include housing in HUD’s Section 202 program, which targets housing for the elderly.

The expansion, Carson said, will make federal money available to nonprofit housing developers that can be used to revitalize aging developments and keep their properties affordable.

Carson said the expansion will use capital investment to tackle a backlog of property repairs and preserve affordable housing. Across the country, the program has already preserved almost 150,000 affordable housing units. Now, he said, around 120,000 additional senior housing units will be eligible for the program.

Although not related to the HUD program expansion, the P.R. Mallory building also is an example of revitalization. The building sat vacant for more than two decades, but will soon become home to two schools. The project. which is located in a federally designated opportunity zone,  is set to be complete by July.

Carson, flanked by Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, said there are 36 opportunity zones in Marion County and 156 total in the state. Opportunity zones, according to HUD, are census tracts found to have the most need of private investment. The designation offers investors federal tax advantages for projects in these zones.

“In many ways,” Carson said, “the renewal of the P.R. Mallory campus reflects the revitalization of America’s heartland which is happening all across the country. We’re seeing the rebirth of our national spirit, our pride, positivity and potential.”

Braun said the hope is that the schools’ influence will spread around the neighborhoods.

The Purdue Polytechnic High School will be on the top two floors of the building and will offer high school students a STEM-focused education, as well a path to Purdue University. Eventually, 600 students will be enrolled. The school will have an operating budgeting of between $4 million to $4.5 million.

Next fall, the schools plan to move into the building previously designated as a Historic Landmark by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.

The additional HUD funding won’t affect the P.R. Mallory campus, Carson said, since that revitalization is already funded. Still, because the area sits in an opportunity zone, other developments in the area could receive funding.

The $36 million P.R. Mallory revitalization is funded in part by not more than $15.5 million in economic development tax increment revenue bonds issued by the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee in February. Indianapolis-based education nonprofit The Mind Trust also committed $1 million to the project.

“There’s a lot more money in the private sector than there is in the government,” Carson said. “If we create these win-win situations in which the private sector has a vested interest in making sure the properties are maintained properly, then they’re not going to deteriorate as we’ve seen in the past.”