A chance to own a home for $1 in a city on the ropes

Officials say that a third of the houses in Gary are unoccupied, hollowed dwellings spread across a city that, like other former industrial powerhouses, has lost more than half its population in the last half-century.

While some of those homes will be demolished, Gary is exploring a more affordable way to lift its haggard tax base and reduce the excess of empty structures: sell them for $1.

The program, announced in June, will offer Gary residents a chance to pay less for a house than for their morning coffee, as long as they meet a minimum income threshold (starting at $35,250 for one person) and demonstrate the financial ability to bring the neglected property up to code within six months. Those selected would have to live in the home for five years before receiving full ownership.

Nearly 400 people picked up applications on the first day they were available. After an extensive preselection process, the city will choose 12 out of 25 finalists in a lottery next month.