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1,500 Homes in Lakewood Need ‘Significant Repair’

Last summer, city administrators and building and housing officials set out on foot examining 11,000 homes in the city. Now comes the hard work.

Correction: The city sent out 1,500 letters to homeowners. 

Hundreds of color-speckled dots on a satellite image of Lakewood tell the story of the current state — as well as the future — of the city’s aging housing stock. 

Red is bad, green is good.

Last summer, and building and housing officials set out on foot to examine 11,000 homes in the city. 

The result is the Residential Housing Survey, a collection of data that highlights areas of Lakewood that need some attention. 

“Now we’re talking about using that information to figure out what we’re going to do with this inventory,” said Dru Siley, the city’s director of planning and development. 

“We know that 84 percent of our houses are in good shape.”

He said that of the 11,000, approximately 1,500 need “significant repair.”

Ward 4, the only portion of the city not canvassed yet, will be addressed this spring.

The city sent out 1,500 letters informing the homeowners of the issues, however most of them minor: cracked driveways; peeling paint; broken rails on porches. 

That's when the phones started ringing at .

There are 40 red spots — properties that fall into the “significant disrepair” category — and more than 1,500 homes that fall into the “needs work” category (yellow).

The green dots denote homes that have no visible exterior code violations; the blue dots represent homes that “almost meet” the code.

The letters, already arriving in Lakewood mailboxes, aren’t correction notices, rather warnings of potential future issues, Siley added.

The city is partnering with LakewoodAlive, the city’s economic development organization, to address the concerns.

"If you need help, there are resources available," said Ian Andrews, the director of LakewoodAlive, adding that housing is a centerpiece to strong neighborhoods and a thriving city.

"As the housing stock goes, so goes Lakewood." 

Right now, the city will focus its efforts on one portion of the city: from Marlowe to Woodward avenues and Detroit to Madison avenues.

“We still have 1,500 houses that sill have significant repair needs," Siley said. "We’re doing data research on all the threes to get the back stories — delinquencies, foreclosures, water usage. We’re trying to figure out what’s going on financially with that property.

“We ‘ve done the initial inspections, and we are going to follow up with the building inspectors in April and start citing these properties.”

Nate Kelly February 13, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I am very excited to see home values spike after I fix my peeling paint! Hopefully, the plywood doors and windows on the bank-owned next door will not keep my property taxes from jumping up.
Barbara February 13, 2012 at 01:31 PM
I miss the days when the Lakewood Building inspectors were a tad more 'forceful' in enforcing the codes. I think the leniency has been part of the decline in housing stock. I understand that the economy is bad and people (myself included) are struggling financially, but it doesn't take money to clean. It doesn't take money to clear out the junk you've 'put temporarily' in your backyard. It doesn't take money to stop using your front porch for storage. It doesn't take money to wash your windows. It doesn't take money to pick up trash that's blowing in your street and in your - or your neighbor's yard. It takes pride in home ownership. Despite what has happened with housing values everywhere, unless someone buys a business, chances are pretty good that a home is the biggest purchase/investment they will make. Why don't people work on growing that investment, or at least try to maintain its value?
Colin McHale February 13, 2012 at 02:34 PM
This was much better written than the similar story that cleveland.com ran a few weeks ago - which contradicted itself on it's facts a number of times. I really do hope that this is a step in the right direction for the city, and that they actually do follow through with the homeowners who are not keeping their houses up. The house next door to mine is an absent landlord, and even the painters over the summer joked that they think the home is just being held together by paint. Something really needs to be done to get our housing stock to look better. Colin McHale, REALTOR
Brandon Scullion February 13, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Barbara, You have hit on some wonderful points when it comes to many of these homes with "violations"
Bill Hausknecht February 13, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I'm not necessarily sure there is leniency on the part of any Lakewood inspectors-I believe they have a very difficult job in pursuing not just landlords but single home owners as well to bring properties up to code.I think overall they do an excellent job. Trouble is last year we had one of the wettest warm seasons on record(can't/shouldn't paint wet wood) and an economy that sucks(no $ to fix the place let alone keep it out of foreclosure) .We had alot of "carpet baggers" looking to make a buck on the housing boom and now that its gone sour ,our city has a few problems as well.The trouble is now the good residents who want to fix and stay here are going to be further stressed when they get an official letter saying "their home sucks-fix it!" I do totally agree about the trash blowing around however-alot of it is from people who've forgotten how to bend over or take the "it's the refuse departments problem". Civic pride has dipped to a low,that's for sure.
Brandon Scullion February 13, 2012 at 03:00 PM
With as much pride as I have in my city, my home and my neighborhood, as well as being the block club captain, I am going to do everything I can to help out my neighbors - especially those who show up in yellow or red on the map.
Dave February 13, 2012 at 03:04 PM
My neighbors are on here as "Blue" and their house is a mess. How accurate is this? Sate roof held together with duck tape? Peeling paint? Gutters clinging to the house by a thread?
Brandon Scullion February 13, 2012 at 03:09 PM
That is really odd. Dave, I would perhaps contact the city and ask them about it. At least for some clarification. I was quite bummed to see my house was not green and would love to see the report.
Shawn Juris February 13, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Brandon hits on the point which is evidence that civic pride is alive and well in Lakewood. Block Clubs have taken on a much needed role in the city and are coming on strong. If you have one in place, get involved with it. If you don't have one now and want to raise the bar on your block then take the lead as Brandon has.
Barbara February 13, 2012 at 05:28 PM
We also have an amazing block captain. The problem arises when she sends out a general reminder-type email to all the residents about things like securing the recycling, picking up trash that's blowing around, etc. Conscientious residents take umbrage and get angry with her, but it's a delicate dance to approach the offenders. There are homes on my street that are coded green, yet are in need of significant repairs. I lose patience with the neighbors who have housing issues, say they can't afford to fix them, yet have money for yearly vacations. How do you instill civic pride in someone who just doesn't understand that what they do....or DON'T do, to their This is not grade school where "we're gonna play the game, but we're not gonna keep score so no one's feelings get hurt." This is our property and our community and people need to be accountable. With the right of home ownership comes responsibilities.
Elizabeth Woods February 13, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I bought my home on Woodward Ave about two years ago, and my home has been identified as one that needs repair - and we know this. I bought the home on a short sale - it was vacant for over a year. We need a new driveway/walkway and we need to paint the home, in addition to other things. The problem is these things take time and money. When we bought the home we created a 5-year plan to get these things done. I do hope that the city will work with responsible homeowners in allowing us the time to make the corrections. I am not a lazy homeowner, and I have been working hard for the past two years to update the interior of my home - along with getting married and having a baby. I was born and raised in Lakewood, and just like the others who commented on this article, feel strongly about maintaining our properties and therefore creating a welcoming environment in Lakewood.
Brandon Scullion February 13, 2012 at 06:30 PM
I am almost certain they will work with you.
Peter Grossetti February 13, 2012 at 07:21 PM
This effort is a cursory first step at best (though it makes sense that if the exterior "veneer" is not up to snuff, there are more than likely debilitating issues with regard to the interior, the foundation, and the building's skeleton.) I hope Dave (with no last name in violiation of Patch TOU) has joined his neighborhood Block Club
Peter Grossetti February 13, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Does anyone know (per Bill's assertion) ... do the Building Inspectors actually pursue/chase down landlords and home owners .. or do they hand that reposnsiblly to the City departments?
Shawn Juris February 13, 2012 at 08:01 PM
@ Peter Other than Housing Court the department running point would be building. I suppose that law or finance could be engaged as part of the process at some level depending on the circumstances.
Shawn Juris February 13, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I gotta say, I've been impressed with the strategy overall. While there is more beneath the surface and plenty to inspect beyond just the exterior - this strategy protects the property from the elements by placing a priority on the shell of the structure (roof, gutters, windows, walls) and is tremendously efficient in focusing a finite resource (inspectors time). To get even a surface understanding of 11,000 structures in several months is impressive to me. Interior mechanicals have codes to meet as well but if the roof is taking on water or the porch is collapsing a GFI outlet is less relevant. Triage begins with taking inventory (Hawkeye and Honeycutt never got out their scalpel and scrubbed in until they knew what came of the chopper).
Peter Grossetti February 13, 2012 at 09:08 PM
@Shawn - don't misundertand me ... "cursory" is not necessarily a bad thing. But it IS just a low-hanging-fruit first step (which I am happy to see being plucked) ... as these "symptoms" are just manifestions of the underlying disease. "So, Peter, what is that disease?" is probably your next question. THAT, my friend, is the gist of the overarching big picture dilemna facing Our City ... and I'm afraid that a series of well-intended but non-interfacing studies, public forums, etc. will do little more than provide binders filled with data unless there are strategies, goals, action step formed ... and various City departments/entities being assigned non-negotiatble tasks and deadlines. I believe taking the 1993 Lakewood Community Vision down from the bookcase, dusting it off and delving into it is also great idea ... but even that addresses only a sliver of what need to be addressed. As I mentioned at the Feb 2 Planing Commission meeting, this needs to be done slowly and thoroughly ... and in conjuntion with existing and forthcoming Cuyahoga County Excutive Office's initiatives. I stand ready to serve.
Emily Smith February 14, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I think it's great that they are attempting to control the value of homes and clean up derelict properties. Really, I do. But I find it extremely disrespectful that this map is public information. My house is in good shape. We have put a lot of time, effort, and money in to fixing up our home. We bought it less than 3 year ago and have made several major upgrades to the home. But I'm "blue" - I have no idea why and no idea what's "wrong" with my house. I have received no communication from the City. NONE. I only found out by reading this story and looking at the map. But hey, thanks for sharing that my house has "issues" with pretty much anyone who wants to know. That's cool, don't bother to TELL ME - the HOMEOWNER - what I need to fix. Seems kinda silly tell everyone but the person who actually OWNS the property. Also, if they really wanted us to clean up, it might be useful to know what we need to clean up. Glad to see my tax dollars at work..
Brandon Scullion February 14, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Emily, though I respect your opinion I must point out that most of the houses in Lakewood are listed as blue (3). Blue may not be perfect but certainly doesn't mean it is bad. I am sure you house is beautiful regardless of the fact that it is not listed as green. I too am disappointed my home is not green as well but I don't feel it is a reason to lambast the city over. I have spent nearly as much in renovations as I spent on the house yet I can still see tiny issues that can be addressed. This is a positive step forward for the City of Lakewood. Also, letters will be coming.
Brandon Scullion February 14, 2012 at 10:51 PM
http://www.cleveland.com/lakewood/index.ssf/2012/02/lakewood_housing_strategy_move.html
Greg February 15, 2012 at 01:19 AM
I find it funny that it took all this time to get the letters out. When the survey was done I was not the owner, and have done significant restorations since becoming the owner. So since I was not the owner when the violations were noted, if something is still in violation...can I go after the previous owner? Was he notified? If he was and did not disclose then what are my options? I have another friend who is in the same boat, significant repairs since last summer but still received a letter?
Brian February 15, 2012 at 04:06 PM
The Feb 3rd article in the PD mentions "Homes ranked with a 1 or a 2 are in need of some level of repair. In some cases, like the 41 4's in Lakewood, "demolition" wouldn't be out of the question, Siley added. And for homeowners contacted by the city for receiving a "3" ranking, the repairs needed could be as minor or as major as a fresh coat of paint on one side of the house or a replacement storm door needed for the front porch". This has to be inaccurate. A 3 may mean a minor repair and a 4 may mean demolition? Does anyone know what the black lines represent. Also, where can I get a high resolution of this map. I cant quite tell what color my property received.
Peter Grossetti February 15, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Brian (with no last name - in violation of Patch TOU) - I think the black lines you refer to are actually orange lines and they indicate Ward boundies. (try adjusting your monitor color settings!)
Brandon Scullion February 15, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Good Morning Greg, All I can say regarding you point is that Lakewood is not doing this to fine home owners or strong arm them into immediately fixing some of the issues - unless of course the house is listed in red and perhaps the yellows to a lesser degree. Currently it is a snap shot to get a feel for what condition the entire housing stock is in. As the condition of the house goes so does the property value of all the surrounding homes. I can speak from experience that I have been treated with nothing but respect and compassion from the day that I bought my house. 12/2007 I took ownership of a foreclosed property. Because it was a foreclosed property, a point of sale inspeciton had to be performed and many issues, as one might expect from a foreclosed property, had to be rectified. The building dept. gave me a list of items that I needed to address and at no time did I ever have someone banging down my door telling me I missed something, didn't do something well enough or pointing to a clock as if to say I am behind schedule. Our homes are our castle and I'm sure the things they point out are the very same things many of us want to improve anyway. Perhaps I am overly optimistic but I believe in what they are doing and trust the city.
Brian February 15, 2012 at 04:57 PM
There are thick black lines around some properties and no mention of these lines in the map legend. I know what the ward boundaries are. I'm in violation? Yikes.
Brandon Scullion February 24, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I FOUND IT!!! http://www.onelakewood.com/pdf/2012_HousingSurveyMap_0124.pdf

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