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.
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. 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
Teresa and Tim
“Living here has made me a better husband and father. We are away from the riff raff in our old neighborhood. I feel lucky to speak to my neighbors, to know they look out for my children. I love living here, there is no place we would rather be!”
Teresa and Tim were living in South Bend, IN, when they heard about Dogwood Estates. As the parents of 5 children, they wanted a safe, affordable place to call home. Although both employed full-time, Teresa’s student loans limited their options and they found their family living in public housing that was unsafe, in a neighborhood where the children couldn’t play outside. Now, they live in a 4-bedroom, 2-story affordable home, with plans to purchase the home after the 15 year LIHTC compliance period. Tim is thrilled to be out of the toxic environment they were previously in. “Living here has made me a better husband and father. We are away from the riff raff in our old neighborhood. I feel lucky to speak to my neighbors, to know they look out for my children. I love living here, there is no place we would rather be!” Teresa added, “We have never lived in a community where everybody is so involved. It’s hard to keep the kids inside now – they have friends in the neighborhood, they can play outside, ride bikes, play basketball, walk home from school. Walkerton has a wonderful school system and the kids are excelling now – they were at risk of falling behind at their old school. We live closer to family and have more opportunities living here.”
Melissa was initially doubtful when she heard about Dogwood Estates. A single Mom to two teenage boys, Melissa was in a position where she couldn’t afford to buy a home and manage the maintenance. She had hoped to find affordable housing in a neighboring town and remembering the days of West York, was hesitant to visit Dogwood Estates.
“Dogwood Estates has really improved the entire community. People now move to Walkerton to live here; more people are purchasing homes in the surrounding neighborhood.”After her first visit, she immediately signed the waiting list. Melissa couldn’t be happier with her decision to move to Dogwood. “I have a very nice new home and I have help maintaining it. If the roof were to leak or there was some other major repair to be done, I have help for that.” She stated with pride, “I often come home from work to find my lawn has already been mowed–my neighbors will mow my lawn for me if its needed! Dogwood Estates has really improved the entire community. People now move to Walkerton to live here; more people are purchasing homes in the surrounding neighborhood.” Melissa’s son Jacob loves that he can walk to school. “I have lots of new friends”, he beamed, “We are always playing basketball, football, jumping on the trampoline. There are kids of all ages living in the neighborhood, we all look out for each other.”
Melissa’s older son Nicholas enjoys playing for the local high school football team, the John Glenn Falcons. Phil Buckmaster, Walkerton’s Economic Director and the Junior Achievement Volunteer Teacher at the high school shared, “As the neighborhood revitalized, the schools improved. Our schools have a 98% graduation rate. We are the 7th safest community in Indiana. Some of our athletic teams are being scouted by Penn State. This is how much our community has improved since we developed Dogwood Estates.”
“This is the first home I’ve ever rented alone and I’m so proud of myself for getting here. We love living in this neighborhood.”
Before moving in to Dogwood Estates, Tessa and her three daughters were living in an old farmhouse. In addition to excessive utility bills, Tessa was constantly working to fix problems throughout the old house. When the girl’s father left, Tessa couldn’t maintain the home on her own and needed to find safe, affordable housing – for the first time ever on her own! Now, living at Dogwood Estates, Tessa says, “This is the first home I’ve ever rented alone and I’m so proud of myself for getting here. We love living in this neighborhood. We feel super safe, the home is brand new and beautiful – I used to have to prime my own well and now I can make a phone call if I have any maintenance issues. It is a huge deal for us to live here, I’m thankful for the opportunity!” Her girls enjoy living across the street from the playground and being so close to their school. They also have many friends in the neighborhood.
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Type of deal
West York LLC
Justus Property Management