CARPENTERSVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — Does suburban Carpentersville hold the solution to America’s massive housing crisis? A lot of people there are saying yes.
CBS 2’s Bill Kurtis reports on how one man, using good old capitalism, has been leading the charge to revitalize a struggling town.
His name is Tom Roeser, CEO of the biggest employer in Carpentersville: Otto Engineering.
When the recession hit Carpentersville in 2008, some 1,400 of its 11,000 homes went underwater on their mortgages. Tom wanted to help the community and maintain property values.
“Tom started buying up town homes one at a time and he’d go through and completely revamp them,” Village President Ed Ritter says.
One home led to another, until Roeser owned 100 homes.
“The neighborhood was going to get destroyed and it is a nice neighborhood,” Roeser says.
He fixed the houses up with new floors, new kitchens , new windows and new air conditioning.
Otto employee Flor Stewart bought one of them, and Otto even helped with a loan.
And the houses Roeser doesn’t sell he rents.
“And I tell them, your rent is going to be low –$675 for a 2 bedroom. I’ve got 50 people waiting in line for them,” he says.
It has stabilized the neighborhood. But it’s not been without a struggle.
“Regulation is worse than taxation on a business. And the code enforcement people here, the village engineer here, they were unfriendly to everyone,” Roeser says.
So he pushed them to change the building codes and update them. Getting a new mayor has also helped, Roeser says.
His fingerprints are all over Carpentersville.
Neighborhoods built for returning veterans in the 1950s look brand new, ready for another wave of new veterans. Otto Homes will give them $10,000 off the list price.
“It’s the pebble in the pond. If he does 100 houses, then there’s five houses around every one of them that starts improving their property,” Ritter says.
It looks like it’s catching on. Kane County received $1.5 million from a Neighborhood Stabilization Grant to further stabilize neighborhoods.
But Roeser notes it was private enterprise that started it.
“Government can make an environment where people like me can do this. If I were an out-of-work carpenter I could do this for a profit if I could get a loan, or if I could get investors because I’d be making my own job,” he says.
Roeser says his goal in this project is simply to break even. The houses have begun selling, and now he’s working with banks to provide loans to potential buyers.