officials and held a community forum Thursday to discuss their initiative that encourages homeowners to repair their properties and then provides them with assistance.
While most residents who attended the meeting at agreed with the measure, several had concerns the new program could infringe a little too much upon their neighbors.
LakewoodAlive hosted the forum entitled that looked at the city’s current housing and presented an update on the program “Housing Forward” which the city began implementing last year as collaboration between the city, non-profit organizations and residents.
LakewoodAlive, along with other non-profit institutions, directs homeowners to services that will help them fix their properties and meet with city standards.
“It’s at many levels and really small moves make the difference,” Dru Siley, director of planning and development for Lakewood, said of the program. “If we all have a role, you know, ‘many hands make light work,’ 53,000 of us … it can really make a difference. The bigger message is that we’re coordinated. That we don’t forget that. That we have that opportunity to make a difference.”
Siley said the city conducted a survey last July of Lakewood’s 12,661 single- and two-family homes and ranked them in four categories.
Those in categories one and two met the city’s standards and represented 86 percent of the city’s homes. Category three represented 13.6 percent of the homes that “need work,” while the remainder required “significant repair.”
The city began sending out citations to 48 homes in the lowest category in the fall. Those in the second-lowest tier received letters in January informing them of the repairs needed and a timeline for fixing them depending on their severity.
While Siley said many residents have responded, building inspectors began issuing citations to Ward 2 which has the highest concentration of category three properties on April 2.
Siley said if the necessary repairs aren’t completed or it is determined there’s no progress being made on the property, then the matter might be referred to the city prosecutor. If that doesn’t yield results, those in violation might be issued a summons and brought before a judge.
Siley estimates that 20 to 25 percent of the cited properties will reach the city prosecutor’s desk based on those residences having significant difficulties that pre-dated the initiative.
Richard Meixner, 66, has lived in Lakewood since 1971 and believed he received a category three letter from the city but wasn’t entirely sure of his home’s ranking at the meeting.
Meixner said he was cited for cracked glass in a lamppost and a broken piece of latticework under his bushes which he says he repaired in an hour.
Meixner was also curious if there was an appeal process or how the program deals with senior citizens.
“I really don’t want to sound negative about this, but I think when you start telling people what to do, you have to be careful,” Meixner said. “You have to be very thoughtful.”
Carl Roloff, who will turn 50 on Monday, has lived in Lakewood his entire life and has been a homeowner for 29 years. He said he didn’t receive a letter or citation about his property but hopes the measure doesn’t go too far with some residents. Nonetheless, he still sees a need for the program.
“There’s the slightest bit of concern about civil liberties issues, but we live next door to a place that’s one of the worst offenders that I’ve seen in Lakewood,” Roloff said. “I’m all in favor of it. I believe it will be overwhelmingly positive.”
Siley said the city will eventually look into the city’s apartment buildings but won’t do so this year.