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‘Bender’ lays out plan to bring more affordable housing to South Bend

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – There is an affordable housing crisis across the country, and Michiana is feeling the impact.

Bender is the latest initiative to bring affordable housing to South Bend and they are counting on community leaders to join in their mission.

16 News Now listened to Friday morning’s discussion between property experts, community organizers and the young man who founded Bender to find out more about where this generation-defining project could start.

Neighborhoods in the heart of South Bend are where Bender can not only begin to build affordable new homes, but can also begin to break down barriers to homeownership for people in our Black and Brown communities.

It’s not easy to find a home that ticks all three boxes in South Bend. It’s even harder if you’re not white.

Home ownership rate for colored households in South Bend were more than 25% lower than white homeownership rates according to census data.

The rate for black residents is even lower – less than half the homeownership rate compared to white residents.

South Bend home ownership rate(Prosperity now)

While Bender aims to pave the way for homeownership for everyone, regardless of skin color, the initiative could have a deeper effect on black and brown communities that could last for generations.

“I bought my house in 2009 for $66,000 and now it’s $110,000 just for that. My parents couldn’t teach me that, my parents couldn’t give me that in two years. So just over time understanding what it means to own land and how appreciation works,” said ANH Realty Group agent Ashley Hairston.

As the first owner in his family, Hairston provides sound advice to first-generation owners and Bender.

“I didn’t have help contacting my credit, I didn’t know how to save money, and I didn’t know how to maintain a home, so for me, I want to be that resource to make Benders feel like they have someone to go to. They can talk to someone,” Hairston said.

Steve Smith of Irish Realty also brings real estate expertise to Bender, but he also brings an ally in making home ownership in South Bend fairer.

“We are seeing a disparity between black and brown homeowners and there is education on how to become a homeowner. There is a void. But even once you get that basic education, there are a lot of other hurdles as well,” Smith said.

Bender founder Shane Williams-Inez recruits real estate agents, lenders, young leaders – basically anyone who can bring something to the table so that one day a community like this will exist in his hometown.

“Our group has put a lot of effort into this over the last three years and certainly last year with the milestones we’ve reached. Just for people to come together to want to support, to engage, to be all in the project and bring their resources, knowledge and expertise, I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Williams-Inez.

Williams-Inez says they are working to create clean, safe and affordable places to live.

Their first step is to retrofit existing homes to meet this criteria.

The second stage will be to build new modular homes on several properties they have purchased in South Bend neighborhoods, filling vacant lots.

The third step will be to build the Ashland Village with the hope that it will last for generations to come.

Anyone wishing to bring their talents or resources to the table, or anyone wishing to learn more about Bender can find more information here.

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