Signs of progress amid South Bend's vacant housing problem

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A sign of progress and happiness in a depressed South Bend neighborhood. A street known for its vacant houses and other problems now has some neighbors and those neighbors are fixing up the place.

One South Bend couple is not just restoring houses, they're working to restore an historic community back to what it once was. In doing so, the couple is bettering the community in several ways. Not only are their efforts cutting down on crime, their work is slowly helping historic South Bend neighborhoods get some of its property value back.

For the past four years, John Horton and his wife have been buying and fixing up houses on South Bend's Northwest side.

The couple, who is originally from the area, recently moved back from Colorado. They were amazed when they found a vacant, Victorian house on the market for just $30,000.

The couple says it was a steal in comparison to their pricey condo. John Horton says he and his wife Brook decided to take on the project even though the house need a lot of work done to it.

The couple didn't have much money so they decided to restore the house themselves. "We salvage things we can salvage, we re-use things we can re-use, I'm very creative in how we do things and I have some skills I can put to good use," says John Horton.

Horton and his wife have purchased four house, all of which were once boarded up and close to being knocked down. Now those houses are were they and two other family's call home.

Horton says they are not just investing in houses, but rather they are investing in their community. "The more that we do and the more that other neighbors do, the more our house values will increase and the better the investment will be to be here," says Horton.

Horton says much of there work is possible through the South Bend's tax sales -- houses that go back to they city and then put up for auction when people cannot pay their property taxes.

One of the four houses Horton owns was only bought of a mere $550. Still, Horton says the process makes for an up hill battle when trying to clean up the neighborhood. Mainly, because there are people exploiting the system to make a quick profit.

"What they do is buy it at a tax sale and then turn around and don't do anything with it and just flip it," says Horton.

 Despite all that, Horton's philosophy seems to be catching on. Neighbors living in the area say they are slowing starting to seeing more families moving to the neighborhood and doing the same thing Horton is doing.


Share this article: