Indiana town expands home ownership by selling houses for $1 each

The Dollar House Program in Gary, Indiana, provides fixer-upper homes for $1 each to qualified buyers who renovate them within a year and occupy them for five years

(Credit: iStock)
(Credit: iStock)

A lack of affordable housing afflicts many cities, and in Gary, Indiana, the municipal government is tackling the problem by selling houses for $1 each.

Located 25 miles south of downtown Chicago, Gary has a declining population and plenty of vacant houses, a legacy of the steel industry’s decline in the town since the 1960s.

The town’s Dollar House Program allows qualified residents to pay $1 for a fixer-upper house that needs repair and renovation but doesn’t have type of damage that would require demolition.

Gary introduced the program about 30 years ago under a different name, The Homestead Program, and one of the residents who got a $1 house under the original program was Karen Freeman-Wilson, who is now the town’s mayor.

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The town terminated The Homestead Program, but Freeman-Wilson reinstated it as the Dollar House Program in 2013.

The town uses a lottery system to select buyers of $1 houses. Buyers, who are required to have a minimum annual income of about $35,000, must renovate their homes within a year and occupy them for at least five years. The $1 house buyers also are required to eliminate any code violations.

A handful of houses in Gary are sold annually through the Dollar House Program. The most recent lottery produced buyers for seven $1 houses.

According to Lakia Manley, the housing coordinator in the town’s Community Development Division, the Dollar House Program creates new homeowners, reduces blight and raises housing values. [CNBC]Mike Seemuth