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.
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