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South Bend housing co-op opens in Lincoln Park

The first half of an affordable housing co-op in the South Bend neighborhood of Lincoln Park officially opened Saturday.

The co-op, called South Bend Mutual Homes, started being built over the summer.

“It means that, you know, going through school, working two jobs with four kids, being a single mom, it just feels good,” new homeowner Jamien Fleming said. “It feels like, you know, that I’ve done it.”

Fleming was one of the first families to move into a new home in Lincoln Park on Saturday – her first-ever home with her four children.

“We really came from all the way down – to here,” Fleming, who moved to South Bend eight years ago and stayed in a homeless shelter with her family, said.

The Fleming’s new home is one of two dozen single-family homes being built in the style of an affordable housing co-op in South Bend.

 “I was working on this project ten years ago when it was just a vision,” property manager Rosie Leyva said.

And after years of purchasing vacant properties and working with the city, Leyva brought her vision to life.

 “I see hope in people,” Leyva said. “And I like to be a part of a change in any way that I can be.”

The families moving into the homes went through a strict application and interview process, according to Anne Mannix, who co-developed the co-op.

Mannix said the application process was based on both a family’s income and their love for community.

 “We have a scoring system,” Mannix, who is the president of Neighborhood Development Associates, said.  “And the scoring favors people that do volunteer activity in the community.”

Residents still pay bills – including their utilities bills – but because the community is fashioned as a co-op, the cost of living caps out at roughly $600 per month for each homeowner.

Mannix and Leyva expect the next 12 homes to be completed by the summer, and they will already be filled because there is a waiting list with 50 families on it.

 “Our vision was to redevelop this neighborhood,” Mannix said.

And by doing so, the South Bend Mutual Homes project is also redeveloping the lives of families like the Fleming’s, who now have a home.

 “It’s a reality now,” Fleming said. “It’s just, it’s exciting!”

The South Bend Mutual Homes project is sponsored by a number of organizations, including South Bend Heritage, 1st Source Bank, Neighborhood Development and the city of South Bend.

After the first 24 homes are built by this summer, Leyva said the goal is to continue building throughout South Bend. 

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