Groups pursue housing projects for veterans

2014-06-08T00:00:00Z 2014-06-09T00:11:07Z Groups pursue housing projects for veteransChas Reilly chas.reilly@nwi.com, (219) 662-5324 nwitimes.com

Many area officials want to make sure local veterans experience home ownership.

Merrillville Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey hopes veterans could take possession of some abandoned residential properties in the town.

Guernsey said changes in state law allow a municipality to file petitions to have properties declared vacant and abandoned and then put in the municipality's name without having to go before the Lake County Board of Commissioners.

Guernsey said the new process has him interested in the town acquiring abandoned residential properties in Merrillville. Guernsey said Merrillville would "clean up" the properties, and then veterans would have the first opportunity to purchase those homes.

Besides assisting veterans to become homeowners, the program could help reduce crime, Guernsey said.

He said vacant and abandoned buildings can attract criminal activity, so getting the homes occupied would benefit the community.

Guernsey said he will present information about the his proposal to the Merrillville Town Council, which would decide if the town would initiate the program.

As Merrillville leaders contemplate Guernsey's potential program, the Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Council and Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana continue preparations to create a new home for an active service member, veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran.

Michael Sparber, chairman of the Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Council, said several applications have been submitted for a potential partner family for the first Veterans Build home, and applications continue to be accepted.

Those interested in applying to be a partner family may visit www.nwihabitat.org for information about application guidelines.

Sparber said he hopes to see construction of the home start in the fall.

The two organizations have set a goal of generating $90,000 for the Veterans Build house.

Dan Klein, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, said they are nearly halfway to that goal with about $44,000 collected so far.

In addition to the financial contributions and building material pledges, there have been those who will volunteer to construct the home, Klein said.

For example, a local church will prefabricate walls for the Veteran Build house, Klein said.

After a partner family is identified, the family will select where the home will be built, Sparber said.

Lots for the home are available in Gary, Hammond, Lake Station, Miller, Merrillville and Cedar Lake.

After the home is built, mortgage payments for the partner family would be about $500 each month. The payment, which Sparber said is "less than rent," includes taxes and insurance.

No interest is charged for the mortgage, Sparber said.

The partner family selected would be required to commit 300 hours of sweat equity to the home or another Habitat project and attend financial classes, Sparber said.

He said he is excited about the "wonderful partnership" established between the Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Council and Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana. He hopes Veterans Build becomes an annual program.

Visit www.nwiveterans.com or www.nwihabitat.org for information about the Veterans Build project and ways to help.

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