Gary Dollar Home winners announced on Christmas Eve

December 24, 2013 (GARY, Ind.)

"We are so happy that we actually got the home that we wanted," said Sylvia Willis. "This is a great program and we feel extremely blessed."

This is the first year of the Gary Dollar Home Program, which was developed by HUD in the 1980s to combat home abandonment in communities and help increase the property value of neighborhoods. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who was a recipient of a Dollar Home more than 20 years ago and said the purchase had an "overwhelming impact" on her life, announced the winners on Tuesday.

"I'm just really looking forward to getting in here and getting all of the renovations done getting to work on it and making it home!" Silvia Willis said. She and her husband are first time homeowners through the Dollar Home Program.

"We are really grateful today to say we had an opportunity to get a home and I am all for Gary, Indiana. This program will help people see the city in a better light," Milton Willis said.

Officials hope the plan will help remove the blight and build the tax base. The city of Gary has about 10,000 abandoned homes, mostly due to foreclosures. Some of those were purchased by the city with federal dollars from the Neighborhood Stabilization and 12 in the University Park neighborhood will be sold for $1.

"We are trying to choose the homes that will be appealing to residents. Homes that won't be so expensive they can't keep them up," Arlene Colvin, community development director, said.

Twenty-five people submitted applications for the program. Five individuals or couples took part in the December 13 lottery and drawing for the homes. People won two homes on Tuesday. They had to have financial means to bring the home up to code, live there for at least five years and pay property taxes. They also have to take a home ownership class.

The Willises are expected to close in February.

"Through the years I spent a lot of money on rent and now I have something to call my own," Silvia Willis said.

Mayor Freeman-Wilson hopes to sell 100 homes for $1 a year.

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