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Ind. city’s homebuyer payment assistance program serves first responders

Gary first responders receive $30,000 in homebuyer assistance from American Rescue Plan Act funding


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By Alex Dalton

GARY, Ind. — A down payment assistance program that was implemented by the city of Gary earlier this year has so far provided assistance to over a dozen homebuyers, the city’s director of community development told the Post-Tribune.

The Gary Common Council voted unanimously in April to allocate $2.05 million from the federal funds the city received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) toward the program, which provides assistance in a three-tiered system.

First responders, including police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel, are eligible to receive up to $30,000 in assistance. Other municipal employees, including employees of the Gary Sanitary District and the Gary/Chicago International Airport, as well as veterans and teachers, can receive $18,000 in assistance regardless of the purchase price of the home.

Other qualified homebuyers in the city will be eligible for assistance of 6% of the purchase price not to exceed $18,000.

The program, launched in May, supplements other homebuyer assistance programs available to aspiring homeowners in Gary, including the First Time Home Buyer program funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program and another program launched in partnership with the nonprofit South Suburban Housing Center.

The ARPA-funded program, Gary Community Development Director Arlene Colvin explained, has the benefit of broader reach.

“The First Time Home Buyer program was a pretty slow-moving program primarily because the income levels that we targeted, or have to target, are lower,” she said.

Unlike the First Time Homebuyer Program, the ARPA program has no income requirements for prospective buyers seeking homes in all but two of Gary’s census tracts. In the other two, one of which contains the city’s Miller neighborhood and the other of which extends from Broadway to Grant Street between 41st Avenue and 47th Avenue, homebuyers are eligible only if their income does not exceed 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines based on family size.

Colvin is pleased with the rollout of the new program, which has made housing assistance accessible to a wider swath of the community.

“Yes the housing market did cause the housing prices to increase, but you can use these dollars to decrease your home price,” she said.

So far, 16 homebuyers, including one firefighter, one police officer, and one other city employee, have received assistance through the program, Colvin said, with more applications in process.

The program has helped a mixture of current Gary residents and transplants from other communities. Assistance recipients have purchased homes across the city, with the highest concentrations in Gary’s Westside and Glen Park neighborhoods.

One program beneficiary used the program to help finance the purchase of a newly built home in the Washington Manor Subdivision, developed by the nonprofit Broadway Area Community Development Corporation and located in Gary’s Midtown area.

“It seems to be working well,” Colvin said, “and I just hope that we’ll continue to be able to provide the service to Gary residence because it seems to be sorely needed.”

Colvin hopes to assist with the purchases of at least 50 homes in the next few years, a goal that the program has more than enough funding to meet.

“I think it depends on whether or not people are in the market for home,” she said.

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