City of Elkhart's donation to bring in property tax revenue, help working class families

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In this economy, many working class families don't have the money to buy a home and are having problems qualifying for loans, but a donation of land from the city of Elkhart is making homeownership a reality for 13 families. The act of charity also will end up making money for Elkhart.

For many working class families, being a part of the construction of their homes is something they only dream about.

"I never thought I'd be able to afford--let alone get in and get a mortgage i could afford and buy--my own home and help build my own home," said Tiara Peoples, a single mother. "It's extremely tough, because ... I have three small children. I have to take care of them by myself, and the housing where I stay right now, they do not rush to fix problems."

Peoples said she received a call telling her she was accepted into Elkhart County's Habitat for Humanity program after a period of struggling. Now she's spending 250 hours helping to build not only her own home, but those of her future neighbors in the Beardsley-Bulldog project. It's a project that will bring in property taxes on $1.4 million in assessed home values.

The city of Elkhart donated three parcels of land that will allow Habitat for Humanity to build five of the 13 homes for the project.

It's a win-win situation. By donating the lots that were too narrow to attract the types of developers that could build the $200,000 dollar homes now being built by Habitat for humanity, the city is getting more in property taxes than it would have otherwise and is no longer losing money on empty parcels of land.

At the same time, having the land donated, means Habitat for Humanity can now put that money towards building more homes.

"Land is typically--oh, about $8,000 [per] lot. And they have essentially donated five lots to us...That's $40,000 that we can put into a house--$40,000 builds about a half of a house, so that's one more family that we're able to serve," said Tom McArthur, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Elkhart County.

It takes about 100 volunteers to build one home, and each home takes about six weeks to build. Habitat for Humanity is looking for about 1,000 volunteers to help build homes. The non-profit also needs sponsors to help pay for the construction.

Right now, it only has enough money to build five homes and is hoping the community will step forward with donations.

"We're scrambling right now. I'm a little concerned and so we're looking for some sponsors," said McArthur.


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