Affiliate Spotlight: Gretchen White, Indiana Apartment Association
Gretchen White has been Director of Government Affairs for the Indiana Apartment Association (IAA) since 2013. Prior to joining IAA, she worked in various policy positions with AT&T, the Indiana Builders Association and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Board for the Government Affairs Society of Indiana. NAA caught up with her as she detailed IAA’s legislative agenda for 2015, the biggest threats to the industry and what is on her bucket list.
NAA: What are your association’s state legislative priorities for 2015?
GW: During the upcoming legislative session, IAA will be advocating for legislation in three areas. First, we want to preempt local units of governments from forcing private businesses to participate in an otherwise voluntary federal housing program. Second, our goal is to clarify and expand the process that requires local units of government to submit ordinances dealing with building and fire codes to the state’s Fire Prevention and Building Services Commission. And last, we propose making an amendment to legislation passed last session which restricts local rental registration and inspection programs.
NAA: What are your association’s local legislative/regulatory priorities for 2015?
GW: First and foremost is to continue fighting the source of income proposal in Indianapolis which has been going on for the past six months.
NAA: How did you get involved in politics?
GW: I got involved in politics by helping on Gov. Mitch Daniels’ first campaign which led to several internships at the State House and a job in the Daniels administration.
NAA: What is the most challenging aspect of your job and what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
GW: By far, the biggest challenge I have encountered is the perception that property owners control the actions of their residents and therefore should have to investigate nuisance complaints alongside police officers, pay extra public safety fees for police runs, etc. The most rewarding aspect of my job is knowing that I am advocating on behalf of a great group of members who genuinely care about the success and future of the industry.
NAA: What are the top three issues that association members consistently throw at you?
GW: The top three things I hear most from members are concerns surrounding a noticeable downward trend in public safety official presence on properties, frustration stemming from government regulations and increases in local government fees.
NAA: What do you think are the biggest threats to the industry?
GW: Right now the biggest threat is the lack of available workers with the skills necessary to succeed in the industry. Members provide excellent opportunities with competitive benefits to those interested in having careers in the industry but seem to be struggling with producing enough qualified candidates. The issue has been compounded with the recent growth and building of new multifamily properties that need skilled workers in both the office and maintenance areas. The state has set up a council tasked with evaluating the skills gap to help industries, such as manufacturing and service sectors, and IAA is hoping their recommendations will address the industry’s concerns as well.
The other threat is not specific to Indiana but one every state likely watches and that is the economy. Indiana has had a number of great economic development wins which bring jobs and add to the tax base but it is important that these efforts continue. Indiana’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is currently 5.7 percent and over the past year the state has added 75,000 individuals to the state’s labor force. However, the recent budget forecast which is used to craft the state’s biannual budget reduced its projections for 2015 by 1 percent ($129 million). The projections predict annual revenue growth of 2.4 percent in fiscal year 2016 and 3.2 percent in fiscal year 2017. These budget numbers are key for legislators wanting to craft a balanced budget but are also important for the multifamily industry that relies on both employment numbers as well as the budget forecast to assess the general fiscal situation of residents.
NAA: What is your current “hot” project?
GW: The current “hot” project is dealing with the source of income proposal in Indianapolis. This is the first municipality to propose making source of income a protected class in Indiana and we are actively involved in the debate. We are very cognizant that other municipalities may attempt to introduce the proposal around the state depending on the outcome in Indianapolis.
NAA: What is your favorite political movie?
GW: All the President’s Men.
NAA: Where did you go to school?
GW: I grew up in Indianapolis and attended Purdue University.
NAA: What is your favorite restaurant?
GW: My favorite restaurant is The Capri which serves great Italian food.
NAA: What is your favorite band?
GW: I listen to a lot of country music and a big fan of Kenny Chesney.
NAA: What is on your bucket list?
GW: Someday I would like to travel to the Galapagos Island and participate in the running of the bulls in Pamplona.