“Bendr” outlines plan to bring more affordable housing to South Bend

Organizers hope to improve homeownership rates and opportunities in communities of color
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:45 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) -There’s an affordable housing crisis going on across the country, and Michiana is feeling the impact.

Bendr is the latest initiative to try and bring affordable housing to South Bend and they’re relying on community leaders to join their mission.

16 News Now listened in on the discussion Friday morning between real estate experts, community organizers, and the young man who founded Bendr to learn more about where this generation-defining project could get its start.

Neighborhoods in the heart of South Bend are where Bendr can not only start building new, safe and affordable homes but they’re also where Bendr can also start breaking down the barriers to homeownership for people in our Black and Brown communities.

It’s not easy to find housing that’s new, safe, and affordable in South Bend. It’s even harder if you’re not white.

Homeownership rates for households of color in South Bend were more than 25% lower than homeownership rates for white people according to census data.

The rate for Black residents is even lower--less than half the homeownership rate compared to white residents.

South Bend Homeownership rates
South Bend Homeownership rates(Prosperity Now)

While Bendr aims to open a path to homeownership for anyone regardless of the color of their skin, the initiative could have a more profound effect on Black and Brown communities that could last for generations.

“I purchased my house in 2009 for $66,000 and now it’s $110,000, so just that alone. My parents couldn’t have taught me that, my parents couldn’t have given me that in two years. So just over time, understanding what it means to own land and how appreciation does work,” said ANH Realty Group agent Ashley Hairston.

As the first homeowner in her family, Hairston brings experienced advice to first-generation homeowners and to Bendr.

“I didn’t have help to reach out to my credit, I didn’t know how to save money, and I didn’t know how to maintain a home so for me, I want to be that resource for Benders to feel like they have someone to reach out to. They can talk to someone,” Hairston said.

Steve Smith from Irish Realty also brings real estate expertise to Bender, but he’s also bringing allyship to make homeownership in South Bend more equitable.

“We see a disparity in Black and Brown homeownership and there’s an education on how to become a homeowner. There’s a gap there. But even once you get that basic education there are a lot of other barriers too,” Smith said.

Bendr’s founder Shane Williams-Inez is recruiting realtors, lenders, youth leaders--basically anyone who can bring something to the table so one day a community like this will exist in his hometown.

“Our group has been putting a lot of effort into this for the last three years and definitely the past year with the milestones that we’ve made. Just to have people come together to want to support, to commit, to be all into the project and bring their resources and their knowledge and expertise, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Williams-Inez said.

Williams-Inez says they’re working to create clean, safe, and affordable places to live.

Their first step is redeveloping existing homes to fit that criterion.

Step two will be building new modular homes on several properties they’ve purchased throughout South Bend neighborhoods, filling in vacant lots.

Step three will be building the Village of Ashland with the hope that it lasts for generations to come.

Anyone who’s interested in bringing their talents or resources to the table, or anyone who wants to learn more about Bendr can find more info here.

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