To see Dogwood Estates today, it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood it used to be. Located in Walkerton, a small rural town in Indiana, the neighborhood was developed by the federal government to accommodate factory workers during World War II. The homes were called Plywood Villages, built on piers with no insulation or foundations. The intention was to provide temporary housing and demolish the neighborhood after the war – that never happened.
Fast forward to 2008. The 85 families living in what is known as the West York neighborhood are paying outrageous rents for substandard housing. Due to the poor construction of the homes, utility bills are forcing most residents into a life of poverty. Some of the poorest people in the county are living in the neighborhood. Ceilings are caving. Floors have holes. The city receives over 20 calls a month for frozen pipes. The streets are so narrow, an ambulance, fire truck or emergency personnel can’t get to the homes.
The Town of Walkerton made the bold choice to find a way to tear down the neighborhood and revitalize the area. Following intensive community input and involvement, the town decided the time was right – thanks to stimulus funding, developers Steve Walters and Mitch Walters worked with the Town of Walkerton, Cinnaire, First Source Bank, the Federal Home Loan Bank, Neighborhood Development Association and others to secure a complex financing package that allowed them to tear down the existing 86 homes and develop 40 beautiful, affordable, lease-to-purchase homes on the site. Now known as Dogwood Estates, the project has provided an unprecedented impact on the small community, spurring economic development, improving the school systems and changing the lives of over 200 families.