Gary, Indiana offering homes for a buck

July 12, 2013

(WBEZ/Michael Puente)
The home with the blue tarp is one of 13 homes that will be sold for $1 in Gary, Indiana.

There aren’t many things you can buy these days for a $1 – not even a cup of coffee.
But in struggling Gary, Indiana, that amount could make you the proud owner of a new home.

“They’ve been coming in droves,” Arlene Colvin, director of the city’s Community Development Department, told WBEZ this week. “This program appeals to a lot of people.”

In fact, more than 300 people have signed up since June to see if they meet all the qualifications to purchase one of 13 homes that were either abandoned or foreclosed on. Friday is the deadline.

But not just anybody can qualify for this program, Colvin says, and for good reason.
Gary, a city besieged by unemployment and rows of vacant homes, has already seen fly-by-night investors come in and buy up foreclosed homes. These investors fix them up, try to sell him, but can’t.

Often, these homes, already purchased once from a sheriff’s tax sale, wind up abandoned again. In the city’s dollar housing program, you must be a Gary resident for at least six months and agree to live in the home for five years.

“That’s one of the reasons we ask that you be a Gary resident when you apply for the property because we know Gary residents are already invested in the community,” Colvin said. “The likelihood that you’ll be doing this just to get a profit is unlikely. You’re trying to invest in the community because this is where you want to live. You want your community to look better. You want these properties to be rehabbed with people living in them so that you can reduce the crime in the neighborhood,” she added. 

Applicants must also maintain a minimum $1,000 in a savings account and demonstrate the financial ability to be able to make necessary renovations since all of the houses are considered fixer uppers.

“Some people apparently like the idea that they can get a real nice house after they fix it up for maybe $10,000 as opposed to going and having to spend $50,000 or something,” Colvin says. “We seem to have hit upon that market I think.”

Colvin says those applying so far are single moms and couples who don’t want the hassle of applying for a traditional mortgage, since many may have a low credit score or lack the necessary down payment.

“There’s a lot of interest in getting a home, especially a home where it seems like you’ll be able to get it within your price range without going through the trouble, without having to qualify for a mortgage and that kind of thing,” Colvin says. “This is a program where if you can get a house, you can just live in it and take care of yourself. That appeals to a lot of people.”

The homes are in the University Park subdivision with close proximity to Interstate 80/94, the Village Shopping Center and Indiana University Northwest. Due to the large amount of applications, Colvin said a lottery will be held in September to pick the winners. 

Follow WBEZ’s NWI Bureau reporter Michael Puente on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.