Gary’s Dollar Home Program Gifts Houses for the Holiday
December 24, 2013 — By Hilary Powell
The dream of home ownership does not often come for free, but for a few special families in Gary it came for one dollar.
Silvia Willis of Gary and her husband, Milton, received their first home this week for $1, “What an awesome, wonderful Christmas present, and I truly thank God for the opportunity. I’ve always wanted my own home. I like brick, so I was excited that it was a brick home.”
Gary mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson resurrected the city’s nearly 30-year-old Dollar Home Program last summer and helped the Willis’ vision of home ownership become a reality.
Mayor Freeman-Wilson says owning property for a dollar in the initial program helped shape who she became, “I was an applicant and recipient of a dollar home here in the city of Gary and was able to choose a home on 8th and Fillmore, and was able to work on it and fix it up and it really encouraged me to be more civically involved and be more involved in the fabric of the community.”
The Willis’ are one of five families who won homes in this week’s lottery.
New homeowner Silvia Willis says she can’t believe she scored her top pick, “When I first walked in, it was like my heart leaped! It was something about that home. It is just a little, cute three-bedroom bungalow with one and a half baths, and it has a two-car garage. I’m just excited and wanting to get ready for the renovations.”
The mayor says giving more residents a key to their own home might fight blight. She says some 10,000 abandoned homes now dot the Steel City.
Mayor Freeman-Wilson says she plans to have the city of Gary partner with a not-for-profit with the goal of having 50 to 100 residents annually realize the dream that the Willis family has attained.
New proprietor Milton Willis says he hopes fixing up his new home will help Gary rebuild its image, “It helps us as homeowners, but also Gary deserves a more positive image. There are positive people here. So, I think this is going to create a more positive, stronger image for the city of Gary.”
Home renovations are expected to cost the Willis’ about $20,000.