opinion   |   oped

EDITORIAL: A city's attempt at redemption: dollar homes



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Gary, Indiana has been hit hard by the collapse of the steel industry in the 1960s. The population of Gary has decreased by more than half, and this has lead to abandoned and neglected homes. In fact, nearly a third of all homes in Gary are abandoned or unoccupied.

It has become such a problem that Gary’s Department of Community Development has begun to sell some of these homes for a single dollar. While this program is in its infancy, it could be a kinetic factor in rejuvenating the once great city of Gary. 

Of course, these properties come with stipulations. Most importantly, you must make more than $35,250 a year, you have to make the houses habitable within one year and you have to occupy the house for five years after initial purchase. There are additional terms, but these are the most referenced parts of the agreement.

These terms are reasonable when you consider that the average house in Gary costs $46,000 and the Department of Community Development estimates $20,000 to $30,000 in repairs for each house.

For a city like Gary, this kind of program is necessary to get anyone to live there. Areavibes gives Gary an F in education, crime, employment and housing. However, these drawbacks could be outweighed by a struggling family living in an apartment wanting a real home. 

Ultimately, this program is in its early stages as there are only eight houses on the market. It is too soon to say whether this program will breathe new life into the dying city. The investors that Gary chooses to start its program could make or break it. While the city stipulates that you must occupy the house for five years, depending on how the legal contract is worded, this could mean several things.

If it is a simple matter of owning the house for five years, investors could rent out the house after renovating it and thus the community would not benefit in the intended fashion. If you must live there than truly only families who are desperate for a real home would apply. In a country where millions of millennials do not own homes, this could be a great opportunity for both the city and the house's new inhabitants.

The city would earn themselves citizens who care about about their neighborhood, if only because they are unable to move anywhere else. Buyers would receive a cheap home near Chicago and all the opportunities that come with it. Gary needs people to care about its city and perhaps giving away a house is enough to earn that. 

Overall, this plan isn’t perfect and its stipulations may turn away would be home owners. However, it is a easily realizable plan that could give away cheap homes to families in need of one. Gary is the last place anyone would expect a turnaround to come from and it would need a miracle to reach its former glory, but this program has potential. 

If nothing else, it is impressive to see such innovative ideas from a city on the verge of collapse. Perhaps this will be the spark that lights the fire that’ll bring Gary back to greatness.

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