A Chance to Own a Home for $1 in a City on the Ropes

Steven Yaccino, New York Times, August 15, 2013

As a tower of black smoke rose above this blighted city last week, a group of neighbors huddled across the street from a burning house, trying to guess which other vacant properties on their block would be arsonists’ next target.

“There’s so many,” said Tasha McMiller, 50, a resident dismayed by the estimated 10,000 abandoned homes here. “They’re a burden.”

Officials say that a third of the houses in Gary are unoccupied, hollowed dwellings spread across a city that, like other former industrial powerhouses, has lost more than half its population in the last half-century.

While some of those homes will be demolished, Gary is exploring a more affordable way to lift its haggard tax base and reduce the excess of empty structures: sell them for $1.

The program, announced in June, will offer Gary residents a chance to pay less for a house than for their morning coffee, as long as they meet a minimum income threshold (starting at $35,250 for one person) and demonstrate the financial ability to bring the neglected property up to code within six months. Those selected would have to live in the home for five years before receiving full ownership.

Nearly 400 people picked up applications on the first day they were available. After an extensive preselection process, the city will choose 12 out of 25 finalists in a lottery next month.

“My target would be to sell 50 houses a year,” Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said. “We’re getting these people to contribute as taxpayers. They can be part of the group that moves out, or they can be part of the group that invests.”

Efforts to revive distressed postindustrial cities across the country are being watched closely since last month when Detroit became the largest American municipality to file for bankruptcy. Indiana is one of 21 states that does not allow its cities to file for bankruptcy protection, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. {snip}

Just 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, Gary was once a vibrant steel town with close to 180,000 residents in the 1960s. It is now home to less than 80,000 people and battered by decades of industry layoffs and racial friction that caused waves of suburban flight, shrinking city coffers drastically.

Gary, which is 85 percent black, has since wrestled with high rates of unemployment, crime and fleeing businesses, as well as fewer resources to invest into 50 square miles of infrastructure that continues to decay. {snip}


Critics say Gary’s problems are too great for the approach to make a noticeable dent. Many of the people who could afford to fix up a dilapidated home have already left the city, said Maurice Eisenstein, a political scientist at Purdue University Calumet. “Nobody wants to live there.”



Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Puggg

    Gary, Indiana now joins Detroit in the legion of cities where one can buy a house for a buck. Now they say it’s “less than your morning cup of coffee,” except my morning cup of coffee costs nowhere near a buck; I’m just fool enough to buy cans of coffee and brew it myself.

    • sbuffalonative

      You can get a cheap house but what about a job?

      Someone didn’t think this through.

      • evilsandmich

        Paying people to live there is their only chance then, not that there’s a price that suits me to do such a thing (maybe they could rope in some guilty white liberals or Deathwish types…).

    • me

      Cripes! To think that Gary, Indiana, the place where the film ‘The Music Man’ portrayed the city as a wholesome slice of Americana, has fallen because of the BLACK PLAGUE of the feral Bantu….

  • AngloCelt

    There’s a simpler, proven method for improving Gary, Indiana: replace the 85% black population with an 85% white population. The city would be fully recovered and thriving within a decade.

    • Spartacus

      Decade ? Major improvements would visible within days…

    • MBlanc46

      Except there’s no reason for white people to live there. They did when US Steel was booming. They left when the boom ended.

  • bigone4u

    “Nobody wants to live there.” That’s because to live there means to die there.

  • Spartacus

    “Gary, which is 85 percent black…”


    Who the hell would want to live in a place like this ?

  • Easyrhino1

    Safer to buy a fixer-upper in downtown Kandahar.

  • 10,000 abandoned home and the “…target would be to sell 50 houses a year,”.

    blacks set such lofty goals.

    • It would take 200 years to sell them all at that rate.

      The problem inherent in buying a home in Gary, Indiana for a dollar is that the place will be worth about a dollar. As the real-estate professionals like to say, the three things that matter the most in a property are location, location and location.

      • Spartacus

        Actually, it would take more than 200 years, since there’re still people leaving the city, hence adding new abandoned homes that would need to be filled.

  • Danimalius

    Maybe a cheap way to start an explicitly white community…?

    • Andy

      It sounds like you already have to live there, though. Probably to prevent gentrification. 🙁

  • MekongDelta69

    So – It only costs a dollar to die these days. Life is cheap…

  • APaige

    Gary’s location is ideal for businesses. Lower taxes in Indiana, near Chicago, on the lake, major interstates, etc. If it became 85% white, it would quickly become the most important urban area in the Midwest-very quickly would pass Chicago. Now it can only hope to be what it is…a little Detroit.

    • MBlanc46

      There’s a reason that it’s not 85% or even 50% white. When the steel industry declined, all (or almost all) of the whites left. There was nothing to stay for.

    • MikeofAges

      Pass Chicago? What are you smoking? Northern Indiana has potential for a renaissance as a center of heavy industry. But it will be a long time before that happens. I have no doubt the decline of Gary was anticipated years before it happened. Our own policy was to promote the development of heavy industries throughout Asia.

      The process of redeveloping the South Side of Chicago began 60 years ago and will not be completed for several more lifetimes. I imagine the same plans exist for Northern Indiana. The South Side of Chicago and Northern Indian may someday be one of the wonders of the world, from north to south a vast swath of world-class higher education, upscale communities and, on the Indiana side of the line, an unexceeded bastion of state-of-the-art heavy industry. But no one alive today will be around to see it. And the great profits will be realized by people other than the generations of urban pioneers who are put into the line of fire.

  • Stentorian_Commentator

    I agree with you about our trade policies, but, as Paul Kersey explains on his blog, what really makes the populations drop dramatically and the houses go empty is black control of the city government. Whites flee to avoid the crime and corruption so they can make better lives for themselves rather than be dragged down by black dysfunction. If there were no blacks there, there would not be this crisis, even with the problems of the steel industry. White people would be there and think of something else to do.

    • The United States is still the world’s fourth largest steel producer, after only China, the European Union and Japan. US steel mills are now so efficient, though, that they do not employ anything like the numbers of people that they once did.

      If Gary were 85% white, there would be a healthy service and retail economy, as well as industrial parks full of small research and development companies.

  • Easyrhino1

    If I’m not mistaken I believe Gary is where they filmed the movie “Black Hawk Down”.

    • watling

      They were considering it but decided it would be safer to film on location in Mogadishu itself.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    This is what happens when cities do it the Obama way for 50 years, under complete Democrat control.

    Liberal jerks who advocate these ruinous policies should be FORCED to live in these insolvent, bankrupt, violent hell-holes instead of White communities protected by armed guards.

    Someone need to start tours of these ruined cities like Detroit and Gary, Indiana — it would be like touring Pompeii!! — only you’d need to be fully armed, wear a kevlar vest and ride around in a bullet-proof Hummer!


    • Strider73

      I read awhile back that foreign travel agencies book tours of “the Ruins of Detroit,” where tourists from other nations can see firsthand what happens to a city when Bantus take over.

      • MBlanc46

        I believe you’re talking about a plan by the bankruptcy administrator to give tours of Detroit to potential investors.

        • Romulus

          Aaahhh! I recall an article in the WSJ on that. Bon may just be postulating what would be a cure all for the mental illness of modern liberalism.

          • Bon, From the Land of Babble

            Great comment!!

            There WAS a for-profit tour of Los Angeles called the “gang and graffiti” tour. Tourists had to wear Kevlar vests and sign waivers that they “may not come out unscathed or alive.”


        • Those bus tours were cancelled because investors wouldn’t sign a liability waiver.

          • MBlanc46

            Very wise of them.

          • evilsandmich

            True, if you’re going to be shot at on an asset evaluation tour, then one can probably guess what the assets are worth without the risk of getting shot.

      • Bon, From the Land of Babble

        There WAS a group in Los Angeles that started up a for-profit “gang and graffiti” tour.

        Not for investors, but for TOURISTS.

        They used small vans, tourists were issued kevlar vests and had to sign waivers stating the touring company was not responsible if they were harmed in any way.

        Not sure if they’re still in business, this was a few years ago.


        • NordicHeritage

          Sounds like a part right out of the movie Jurassic Park lol.

    • MBlanc46

      I’ve dealt with this above. Clearly you know little or nothing about the history of Gary.

      • Romulus

        Elaborate please.

        • MBlanc46

          Here’s my comment from above:

          Left-wing paradise? You must be talking about some other Gary than the one that I know in northwest Indiana. Gary was a company town. US Steel was the company. When the local steel industry declined in the 1970s and 1980s, the city declined with it. It’s now inhabited only by those who didn’t possess the means to get out. You clearly don’t have a clue to what you’re talking about.

          • Bon, From the Land of Babble

            Slate named Gary, Indiana to be the” 2nd Most Liberal City in America!” (Behind #1 Detroit).

            Gary was a company town.

            US Steel was

            local industry declined

            the city declined

            A lot of past tense there about Gary, MBlanc, without an explanation as to what happened to Gary.

            The photos tell us everything we need to know about what it once was.

            How did it get that way?

            Was it attacked by aliens from outer space?? That’s what it looks like — but since I know that is not a possibility, and I “clearly don’t know what I’m talking about,” I’ll let you explain to us WHY Gary looks the way it does.

            Did it decline due to Free Market, Limited Government policies?

            Or what? What was it that caused Gary to look like it’s been hit by continuous heavy artillery.



          • MBlanc46

            Past tense, because Gary declined in the past. You must not have been paying attention. Those of us who live in the region saw clearly what happened to the steel industry in South Chicago and northwest Indiana.

          • Bon, From the Land of Babble

            Look, I’m sorry about what happened to your area, many of here could tell the same story about our own once-great cities that have been decimated by non-Whites. I have seen my own home city, Los Angeles, turned into a graffitied-over, bankrupt, 3rd world, sanctuary city for mexicans.

            And, I will provide the answer to the question I posed above: What happened to Gary, Indiana?

            Please pay attention:

            As Luis explains below, Richard Hatcher, Gary’s first black mayor, elected in 1967, was the death knell for Gary; the city began to decline while U.S. Steel was flourishing. Once elected, Hatcher announced that blacks would get 50 percent of all government positions, proposed building low-income housing for blacks in all-White neighborhoods and fought for and won housing desegregation, which caused massive White flight as White residents did not care to be lorded over by the likes of Hatcher and/or live next to increasing crime caused by violent blacks.

            After the election of Hatcher, the Feds wanted Gary to succeed as a “black success story” and shoveled massive amounts of money into the city, for job training, for housing for Model Cities Program and the War on Poverty — all of it for naught.

            Gary is now 85 percent black

            All I need to know about Gary or any other of America’s most violent, miserable cities, is the black percentage of the population. .

            From that one statistic, I can tell you everything about the city’s government: It will be run entirely by one party: far leftist Democrats, and marked by corruption, incompetence, theft, fraud, waste, fleeing businesses and bombed-out infrastructure.

            Every single ruined city like Gary is a recipient of massive Democrat/lefty policies.

            Things are getting so bad that Gary officials are thinking about cutting off city services to about 40 percent of the city’s land and moving residents to more viable parts of Gary, NBC reports. This is a drastic move, but it may be necessary as the thousands of abandoned properties are attracting criminals.


      • Bon, From the Land of Babble

        Clearly I DO understand that Gary Indiana — like Detroit and other once-grand cities — went from being great industrial powerhouses to burned, bankrupt hell-holes.

        Instead of insulting me, maybe you’d like to explain the economic policies that lead to a 50 percent population drop in Gary and the destruction of the once-grand buildings I posted above?


        These 12 Hellholes Are Examples Of What The Rest Of America Will Look Like Soon

        #1 Gary, Indiana

        Gary, Indiana was once a great industrial city.

        Today, it is one of the ten most dangerous cities in America, and the population has fallen by about 50 percent.

        Frequently rated one of the ten most dangerous cities in the United States, Gary once boomed with jobs and opportunities but now faces the acute difficulties of America’s growing rust belt, with 22 percent of families in the once-great city now lying below the poverty line.

        This modern American ghost town began life as home for workers at the United States Steel Corporation plant until economic competition from abroad forced a 90 percent job cut.

        The following is how James Kunstler described what he experienced when he traveled through Gary, Indiana recently….

        Between the ghostly remnants of factories stood a score of small cities and neighborhoods where the immigrants settled five generations ago. A lot of it was foreclosed and shuttered. They were places of such stunning, relentless dreariness that you felt depressed just imagining how depressed the remaining denizens of these endless blocks of run-down shoebox houses must feel. Judging from the frequency of taquerias in the 1950s-vintage strip-malls, one inferred that the old Eastern European population had been lately supplanted by a new wave of Mexicans. They had inherited an infrastructure for daily life that was utterly devoid of conscious artistry when it was new, and now had the special patina of supernatural rot over it that only comes from materials not found in nature disintegrating in surprising and unexpected ways, sometimes even sublimely, like the sheen of an oil slick on water at a certain angle to the sun. There was a Chernobyl-like grandeur to it, as of the longed-for end of something enormous that hadn’t worked out well.

        Perhaps you would like to explain to me why Gary looks the way it does –since I “clearly don’t know the history of Gary.”

        What exact economic policies were implemented that lead to the decimation of this once industrial city?


        FTR: My dad is from Indiana, I have many first-degree family members scattered all over the state and have been there many times, including Gary.

    • watling

      I bet 1st century Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius was a nicer place to live than 21st century Detroit/Gary.

  • NeanderthalDNA

    I think some stormfronters should buy them up and start a war…
    Just kidding. Would make us all look bad. Yup.

  • RHG

    Another “leftwing paradise” on display, of course the people who turned this city into cesspool have just moved to other places to agitate there and spread the misery.

    • MBlanc46

      Left-wing paradise? You must be talking about some other Gary than the one that I know in northwest Indiana. Gary was a company town. US Steel was the company. When the local steel industry declined in the 1970s and 1980s, the city declined with it. It’s now inhabited only by those who didn’t possess the means to get out. You clearly don’t have a clue to what you’re talking about.

      • Romulus

        Mmmmm. Same thing happened to Bethlehem, Pa

        • Bethlehem Steel used to manufacture much of the armor plate and heavy guns for US navy battleships. If I recall correctly, they also produced a lot of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in prefabricated sections, which was then shipped around to the Pacific through the Panama Canal.

          • Romulus

            Indeed. It then became cheaper in this beck of the woods to outsource to Canada. In conjunction with NAFTA,if memory serves correctly.

  • Romulus

    Couple this article with the following one. Instead of taxpayer(white)funded amnesty for mexos and busing into new hoods (white enclaves), this is a great solution for blacks and hombers. Then when they STILL can’t keep together, let them off each other. It would be much smarter than another round of default mortgages.

  • MBlanc46

    There’s much to what you say, but there was more to it than that. The decline in the Mesabi Range iron ore deposits and the use of high-sulfur Illinois coal were factors in the decline in the steel industry in Chicago and northwest Indiana. Imports surely didn’t help, but that industry was going to decline in any case.

    • The sulfur dioxide from burning coal can be recovered with stack-scrubbers, and oxidized farther to sulfur trioxide, which can then be reacted with water to make H2SO4: sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is valuable because other mineral acids are made from it, and thus lots and lots of other chemicals.

      • MBlanc46

        It sure wasn’t done in the 1960s and 1970s. I went to school about 20 miles away and when the wind was from the southeast, your eyes would burn and the mucus in your nose would turn brown. Wisconsin Steel on the Southeast Side of Chicago is a huge vacant lot and Gary Works of USS is a shadow of its former self. The steel industry, for better of worse, is never coming back here.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    The unions in the NY school system at one time were SO powerful the janitors only had to mop the cafeteria floors once a semester.


  • MBlanc46

    Blacks were there when Gary was booming. Likewise, in Detroit. But even you don’t say it’s only blacks. It’s also those evil unions and liberals who force the kind, tender-hearted capitalists to do what they always do–screw American workers in favor of cheap, colored, Third World labor. Quit trying to blame everything on blacks and get acquainted with economic reality,

  • Mark Hillyard

    This cheap steel show’s up when I’ve attempted to thread pipe by hand. Used to be able to do it but now the pipe falls apart after a few threads are completed. I’ve had to take it to the hardware supplier where they cut it on a power threading machine. Owner told me the Chinese don’t add enough steel to the mix for iron pipe.

  • Nick A Siggers

    “Nobody wants to live there.”

    It’s not the”there” it is with the blax.

  • watling

    I assume thousands of white Democrats are heading for Gary right now so that they can experience the sheer joy of living amongst all those charming black people.

    • These white Democrats will also send their kids to the public schools there because, as they continually tell us, “Diversity is good for children.”

  • JackKrak

    “They’re a burden.”

    Had I been interviewed, I would have said the same thing but I wouldn’t be talking about the empty houses.

    • JackKrak

      btw – name one 85% black city where anyone WOULD want to live…..

  • Irishgirl

    “Gary was once a vibrant steel town…”

    It’s still “vibrant” – only the definition of the word has changed.

  • Part of the problem was that Japan and western Europe rebuilt after World War Two, and did so with newer, more modern plant equipment. In the meantime, American management and unions were pretending this would never happen.

  • Are you suggesting that they haven’t already reverted?

  • MBlanc46

    I’m sure Hatcher wished he’d had the power to destroy Gary. He’s the flotsam and jetsam of history, not the agent; the effect, not the cause. And Gary was never Pittsburgh or anything like it. It was a company town and the company shrank substantially. The town then did likewise. That’s the only important thing.

  • Steven Bannister

    How about a couple of hundred of us buy a house on the same block?

  • OlderWoman

    “Gary, which is 85 percent black, has since wrestled with high rates of
    unemployment, crime and fleeing businesses, as well as fewer resources
    to invest into 50 square miles of infrastructure that continues to

    Black History summed up in only one sentence.

  • MikeofAges

    Another thing that busted the companies was legacy costs. When the companies signed on to offering them, men lived to maybe 73 years old, less in many case. Who knew that so many would live into their late 80s? When the American automakers in the 1970s signed on to 30-and-out retirement and lifetime benefits, that was considered the height of industrial statesmanship. Legacy costs still add well more than a thousand dollars to the price of every Big Three produced vehicle.

    Companies in other industries just went out of business.

  • MikeofAges

    Even so, the critical issue was legacy costs. When you are paying multiple retirees for every current worker, you end up bankrupt.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    They are all from Gary, Indiana. I have a feeling there are ruins like this all throughout the Eastern U.S. and Midwest.

    Ruins of Gary’s Palace Theater, Union Station and Methodist Church, built in the 1920. I’m surprised the glass is still intact in the church.

    For more, see here (from the British Press):

    www dot dailymail dot co dot uk/news/article-2173761/Tragic-portrait-city-decline-The-desolate-ruins-Gary-Indiana-reveal-decaying-heart-Americas-proud-industrial-centre dot html


  • joesolargenius

    They would still have to support the blacks