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People living in storage units? Marion County Public Health Department is investigating

A couple had their storage unit broken into which made them take a closer look at the facility
Inside of a storage unit where it appears someone is living
Posted at 10:41 AM, Sep 30, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — Earlier this month, Brandy Chestnut and Steven Taylor discovered their storage unit at SecurCare Self Storage had been broken into. It happened at the facility near East St. and I-465. What alarmed the couple the most was the fact they were never contacted despite management knowing. Their unit had been screwed shut, an indicator of the break in according to the employee on site.

"It's been two weeks and nobody has called us to say hey, would you like to switch units, would like me to make sure your doors are secure? Nothing like that," Taylor said.

Now, the couple has removed all but one thing from the unit, fearing the problems run deeper than storage units being ransacked and broken into.

"I've kind of been doing my own investigation. I've always thought somebody was staying here on premises. Every day, I see the same vehicles. I see the same people," Taylor said.

Black Mustang parked in front of storage units
One of the cars Steven Taylor says he always sees sitting at SecurCare Self Storage near East Street and I-465.

Fed up with not getting answers from management, Taylor turned to the Marion County Public Health Department. He met with an inspector at the facility on Thursday. Taylor said he walked around the facility with the health department employee, showing them all the things he's noticed. A spokesperson confirmed to WRTV, they're looking into the claims and will take further action if needed.

For Taylor, answers leading to a resolution can't come soon enough.

"We talk about this all the time because until we get some answers, it's always on our mind."

WRTV has reached out to local management along with NSA Brands which oversees more than 850 storage facilities in 35 states. We have not heard back from them yet.

WRTV also contacted housing advocates in the area. Their consensus? This situation is an indicator of the housing crisis Indianapolis is facing.

This month, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana released numbers that help explain why someone could be forced to live in a storage unit. Those stats are below. Housing advocates are hopeful the General Assembly will address this pressing problem.

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, Marion County renters have paid, on average, $200 to $300 more per month, with rents having increased by more than 20%. Some areas of the County have seen rent increases upwards of 30%.
  • As rental costs have risen, wages have not kept pace. Household income in Marion County has increased on average just 4-5% annually over the past few years.
  • Despite the record-high rent increases, landlords aren’t having any trouble filling their units, with multi-family vacancy rates hovering around 6% – their lowest point in at least 20 years.
  • Half of renters in Marion County earn $35k or less annually, but only an estimated 35% of the County’s multifamily rental units are affordable to them. This disproportionately affects households of color. While households of color represent 36% of all households, roughly half of the households earning less than $35k in income are Black and 13% are Hispanic.  
  • Families with three or more children face steep competition. There are less than 250 three- or four-bedroom units with monthly rents less than $875 currently available in the County at the time of this report.
  • Newly constructed multifamily units do not meet affordability needs. Compared to units built or renovated prior to 2019, the average asking rent for a new or renovated apartment is 20% to 30% higher, or about $300 a month.
  • Affordable housing is scarce in Central Indiana outside of Marion County. Of the 63k units affordable to a family earning less than $35k in income, 80% are in Marion County. In Marion County, investor activity has increased dramatically over the past decade. In 2012, less than 15% of residential single-family property purchases were by investors, but, by 2021, 26% of residential property purchases were by investors.
  • In 2020, 50% of Marion County renters were cost-burdened, paying 30% or more of their income to rent. Nearly 25% of renters were severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50% of their income to rent. For renters earning less than $35k annually, the share of rent-burdened households increased from 78% to 87% over the past decade in Marion County. As of June this year, nearly 11% of households were not currently caught up on rent in Indiana.