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Fighting Blight with “Dollar Homes”

Decades of decline and population loss has resulted in nearly 10,000 empty homes in Gary, Indiana, a third of which are owned by the city.  As a result, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has introduced a number of strategies to deal with the resulting blight.

The “Dollar House” program sells vacant homes for one dollar. To be eligible, the buyer has to have lived in Gary for at least six months and not own a home already. They also need to be at or below 80 percent of the area median income. Buyers are responsible for making any necessary repairs such as new roofs, electrical systems or plumbing, and if they stay in the home for five years they'll own it outright. The program strives to increase home ownership (in a city where 40 percent of the residents are renters) and preserve homes that are salvageable. Homes that cannot be salvaged are demolished.

Other revitalization strategies are noted in this article, including embracing the fact that Gary is a national intersection. Known as “The Crossroads of America,” Gary’s geographic location could draw business and industry, and allow it to be a hub for rail, trucking, air and water transportation. Freeman-Wilson also has plans to preserve abandoned sites as “ruin gardens” or historic places that make great sets, tourist attractions or photography destinations. These innovative ideas exemplify a step-by-step approach to revitalization and an awareness that recovery does not happen overnight, it must be planned, deliberate and sustainable.

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SOURCE: Next City