SB west side housing project gets green light

A South Bend neighborhood that has been plagued with vacant and abandoned homes is now being targeted for a one-of-a-kind housing development.

“We’ve got all of our money and I’m very happy about that,” said Anne Mannix of South Bend Mutual Homes. “Last Thursday we were awarded $369,000 in tax credits from the Indiana Housing Finance Authority and that will generate $3.2 million in equity for the project.”

The competition was tough. The work will start next spring.

The neighborhood in question lies southwest of the intersection of Lincolnway West and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.

18 homes will be built there on vacant lots left behind after the demolition of vacant and abandoned homes.

“We asked for $479,000, they gave us $369,000. We wanted to do 24 houses, we’re down to 18 houses,” said Mannix, who describes the development as being “innovative.”

“No one has ever done a housing cooperative as a tax credit project and new housing cooperatives aren’t developed much anymore. South Bend has a number of cooperatives like Walnut Grove, and Southmore, but those were built in the 60’s and 70’s,” said Anne Mannix. “So this is a new form of ownership and it’s better than rental because people can stay a long time and they all are part of a corporation so they can vote on what they do with their housing. So they can control the rents, they can control the operating expenses.”

Up until now, housing developers aren’t the only ones who have generally balked at doing business in the neighborhood. “Oh yeah, you can't get pizza delivered here because they said it's a hot spot,” said Oak Street resident Patrick O’bannion.

But things have changed here. Vacant and abandoned homes have been dropping like flies, leaving lots of lots on which to build.

“Well, no one else is doing it, I guess. No one is developing on the west side and we really do need development,” said Mannix.

“This project was recognized as one of the five most innovative projects in the state,” said Scott Ford, Director of South Bend’s Department of Community Investment. “We’re thrilled to see that it’s come through.”

“The idea of working families really being in charge of their own housing destiny and really self-governing their own rental housing cooperative and having opportunity to have a stake in the ownership of that single family housing is a really unique component,” said Marco Mariani, Executive Director of the South Bend Heritage Foundation.

The project is so unique that the Center for Urban Policy at IUPUI will conduct research on the effects of the development on the neighborhood and on the lives of its residents.

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