An altruistic businessman has a plan to save his troubled town.
Until recently, Carpentersville, Ill., seemed headed for disaster -- foreclosures and a declining economy had left rows of homes shuttered, CNN reported. Hoping to spark a turnaround, Tom Roeser, 60, owner of the town's largest employer, has been purchasing properties, fixing them up and either selling or renting them at sharply reduced rates.
"I couldn't afford for Carpentersville to become Detroit," Roeser, president of Otto Engineering, says in the CNN video above
Last year, the city had 1,042 homes entangled in default proceedings, which is a lot for a town that has only 9,000 homes.
For Roeser, the catalyst for his philanthropy came in 2005, when the city declared a 1950s-era condo complex built for returning soldiers unfit for safe inhabitation.
Property values plunged and the area, called Morningside, began to suffer.
"It really was neglected," Roeser says in the CNN video above. "I went to the town, the county; I went to Habitat for Humanity; I told them that we needed to do something about this neighborhood. I couldn't get help from anybody."
So he took it upon himself to buy 69 of the homes in the complex. He hired a team of renovators to help turn around the homes -- which took approximately four months.
Roeser says he doesn't do it for the profit.
"The plumbers make money, the electricians make money, everybody makes money and the people get a new home at cost," he told CNN. "I come out of it whole."
According to the Daily Herald, townhouses in Morningside were initially rented to Otto employees. But now, other screened tenants occupy some and pay between $650 and $750 per month.
Since that range falls about $200 below market, residents with lower incomes benefit.
One, a local quality control clerk named Wendy Martinez, says she never thought she would own a home. Now she has three bedrooms, a basement, two-car garage and renovated kitchen to share with her two children.
Carpentersville's village president said the plan has had a positive effect. Other homeowners have become inspired and crime has gone down.
The Daily News explains locals' favorable opinion:
He gets letters from appreciative residents, renters and others on a regular basis and is often told stories about OTTO employees being stopped in local stores and restaurants and complimented on the good works of their employer.
"You can't just fix one, you've got to fix them all," Roeser told CNN. "And I'm on my way to fixing them all."