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Gary, Indiana Selling Homes For $1

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 21, 2013 7:05PM

A home in Gary, Ind. (Photo credit: Jibreel Riley)

Prospective homeowners are always on the lookout for a steal on the housing market or even a home that needs a bit of work but a promotion in Gary, Ind. is giving new meaning to the term “fixer-upper.”

Gary, which has seen better days (an understatement if there ever was) is offering a dozen homes to prospective buyers for $1 each with specific caveats that guarantee the owners become a vital part in rebuilding the once-booming steel town that these days is cited as Exhibit A in the decline of American industry. The homes, located in Gary’s University Park area, were purchased by the city in county tax sales after the previous owners went arrears on their property taxes and are earmarked as part of a neighborhood stabilization effort. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson admits the homes need some work. "It's up to the homeowners to provide the sweat equity,” she said.

A willingness to roll up the shirt sleeves isn’t the only thing wannabe homeowners need to bring to the table. The minimum requirements to qualify for one of the homes include having at least $1,000 in savings, earn at least 80 percent of the Gary median income of $35,250, currently not own a home and have lived in the city for at least six months.

Prospective buyers must live in the homes for at least five years before ownership is officially turned over to them. A drawing will be held in September to determine the lucky dozen to buy the homes and the program has drawn over 400 applicants so far. (The number of qualified homebuyers was whittles down to 25 after the restrictions were taken into account.)

Freeman-Wilson hopes the program will eventually result in the sale of up to 50 homes per year. She also has firsthand experience in this: Freeman-Wilson bought her first home in Gary for a dollar through a U.S. Housing and Urban Development program and $15,000-$20,000 she spent renovating her two-bedroom home allowed her to develop roots in Gary, eventually forging connections that resulted in her being elected mayor. "I was able to go out on my own and forge a life in the community," she said. "That participation made me more committed to Gary."