Best known as the childhood home of the Jackson 5, including superstars Janet and Michael Jackson, Gary, Indiana is a town on the outskirts of Chicago.
It shares a border with the East Chicago neighborhood and stretches over 10 miles along the coast of Lake Michigan.
It had reached great heights in the first half of the 20th century due to being a major center of steel production in the country.
Like many great things, however, Gary eventually fell from prosperity.
The 1960s brought great change to the region – imported steel began to replace the need for Gary’s U.S. Steel Works, laying off swathes of workers, and the civil rights movement caused great social unrest in a town already racially tumultuous with a checkered past dotted with lynchings. .
Gary’s prominence fell sharply in the second half of the 20th century, so much so that the town’s population has dropped 61% since 1960. Today, Gary is one-third of what it was before, considered by many as abandoned and hopeless.
How many abandoned houses are there in Gary, In?
Harper’s Index in 2013 claimed that 1/3 of Gary’s homes were abandoned and unoccupied. Another website specializing in abandoned properties puts the number at 13,000 structures.
A government survey in 2015 counted 6,794 “vacant plots,” or just 11% of the plots of land that were surveyed. Either way, it’s a significant part of a city’s buildings that are covered in trees and weeds.
Gary, Is Indiana Completely Abandoned?
Gary is not completely abandoned. Despite its derogatory history, there are still a significant number of people who call this impoverished town home. Businesses still exist, people still have jobs, and many are permanent residents who wouldn’t dream of giving up their homes.
(Related: Top 9 Things To Do In Gary, Indiana)
How many people live in Gary, Indiana?
According to the 2020 census, 69,093 residents call Gary home – and while Gary is not abandoned, its population is slowly declining.
Gary’s population peaked in the 1960s when there were approximately 178,000 and since the 1980s Gary has experienced double-digit percentage losses in population.
Between 1980 and 1990, Gary experienced a staggering 23.2% decline in population
|Population of Garry||Percentage change|
Why is the city so abandoned?
As the story of many boom towns tells, eventually there is a collapse. Much like the ghost towns of the west that rose to huge success with the discovery of gold and silver mines, the steel industry caused Gary’s population and industry to grow rapidly.
As the market changed over time, however, new imports came from overseas that were cheaper than American steel, putting the famous US Steel Works out of business.
As offices closed, mass layoffs reduced their workforce from 30,000 to just 6,000 in 30 years. So dependent on industry, the city has never recovered. Those who found themselves unemployed left to seek work elsewhere, diminishing the population.
Additionally, civil unrest has always been divisive for Gary. There were notorious lynchings of white and black men in the early 20th century.
When the civil rights movement grew in the 1960s, things got worse. The city was torn apart by further violence.
Eventually, a predominantly white city turned black. Before its population fell below 100,000, Gary was the city with the highest percentage of African American residents.
One of the reasons for this change was due to discriminatory laws that helped white families take out federally funded mortgages in nicer suburbs outside of Chicago as Gary fell into decline.
What part of Gary is abandoned?
Gary’s abandoned areas make up most of the city. The remaining residents are scattered in abandoned structures, often living directly opposite or sandwiched between condemned buildings.
It’s not like some neighborhoods are doomed while others thrive. That being said, not all of the city is completely helpless.
(Related: Is Gary, Indiana Safe to Visit? Everything You Need to Know Before Traveling)
Is there a good neighborhood in Gary, Indiana?
On the far east side of Gary is a neighborhood called Miller Beach. This is one of Gary’s few vibrant neighborhoods.
It has an accessible shoreline along Lake Michigan that allows for swimming and boating.
It is just down the road from Indiana Dunes National Park – the only national park in the state.
This area has remained prosperous in part because of its proximity to these natural wonders, but also thanks to urban accessibility: there is a train stop at Miller on the South Shore Line, a commuter train that connects downtown Chicago in South Bend, Indiana. .
This convenience has enabled the development of a tourist trade, giving townspeople access to a relaxing waterfront, local restaurants and small businesses. Miller Beach has a vibrant arts scene and is home to several galleries and shops.
What is the average home price in Gary, Indiana?
According to Zillow, the current average price of a home in Gary in 2020 is $72,017. This average has increased by 36% over the past year and by 45% over the past five years. In 2017, the average home price in Gary was just $32,960, one of the lowest years on record.
Is it true you can buy a house for $1 in Gary?
Yes, it’s true! Over the years, the local government of Gary has implemented programs to encourage derelict property development through what is known as the Dollar House program.
First conducted in 1988, the Dollar House program enacted by the City of Gary encouraged non-homeowners to invest in the rehabilitation of their city through hard work in exchange for a dollar.
The program was revived notably in 2013 and 2018, when the city sold 13 and 8 houses respectively. It wasn’t as simple as handing over a dollar, however; there were criteria to meet. Both programs had requirements:
The previous 2013 program also required the buyer to have $1,000 in savings and “be able to demonstrate that [they] have the financial capacity to rehabilitate a house. Since 2018, there have been no new Dollar House programs at Gary.
Are $1 houses a good investment?
The Dollar Home program sounds too good to be true. Hardly a hurdle, it should be noted here that there was a $25 non-refundable application fee to even be considered accepted to purchase one of these homes.
Beyond that, the value of the investment depends on your commitment. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and have the time to fix up a house, not to mention the money you’re willing to invest in the work, this could be a good project.
However, it’s not just about painting the walls and weeding the garden. It’s important to consider that new kitchens alone can cost well over $10,000, and that’s just for aesthetics alone.
One of the requirements for a $1 home is to bring the property up to code. This could require specialist work such as rewiring or running the gas lines.
If you are not a home improvement pro, you will have to hire many workers to update your new house. This could easily generate tens of thousands of dollars in bills in a year.
Then, once you have met the government standard, you must still reside in the house for five years. That doesn’t seem long for a place where you’ve put your sweat and tears (hopefully not too much, if any, blood), but it’s also important to consider that this is in a town still full of abandoned properties, a lack of jobs and high rates of poverty. You must be very committed to the future or happy to go to town for work.
Is there hope for Gary, Indiana?
This is proof that we must keep hope in the city of Gary thanks to the thousands of inhabitants who remained there.
While some may have done so for lack of means to move away, their constant residence has inspired a pride that is hard to ignore.
The local government and owners of Gary hope for a bright future for the town. They believe this once industrial Mecca can enter the 21st century with new life. Other suburbs outside of Chicago proved successful.
Gary’s proximity to nature and recreation makes it an ideal vacation town. Its position on the commuter rail should allow city workers to relocate to Gary and enjoy bigger homes with sprawling yards…once they relaunch.
Gary can be a good investment if everyone comes together — something Mayor Jerome Prince and his local government are working to do with hope from local residents and potential federal funding.