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City, LakewoodAlive Discuss Housing Repair Project

Residents applaud plan but are concerned it could hurt some of their neighbors

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.

Bob Smith April 27, 2012 at 12:25 PM
I wonder how long it will take for Steve to relate this story to Lakewood's pit bull law.
Barbara April 27, 2012 at 12:38 PM
I agree with Mr. Meixner's concern about approaching the problem diplomatically. However, unless someone buys a business, the home they purchase is the largest investment they will make. Assuring that their property is well maintained is key to holding that investments' value. Similarly, how surrounding properties... how the entire neighborhood is maintained... also plays into any single homes' value. It's not being nosy or mean to have an interest in neighboring properties. It's protecting an investment.
Mark justmark April 27, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I'm in agreement with the general consensus. This program is a good idea and, in the long term, should strengthen the quality of our community. However, from my perspective, I seriously question the methodology. Several years ago, my house was inspected by the City. The only comments I received told me to add a railing to the front steps and, for safety reasons, remove a water feature from front yard. Despite the fact that there had never been any issues with the water feature and that my home may have never had a railing on the front steps, I willingly complied. Since then (3-4 years), I have also finished replacing all of the windows and screens, replaced all of the gutters, refinished my front porch, rebuilt both front and rear soffets, replaced the roof and flashing, rebuilt some stone walls, replaced a drive gate, added new privacy fencing, and replaced a flowering tree in my front yard. That is only what I've done on the outside. Despite all this effort and expense, my home was rated at "#3 - needs work". The only exterior work my home needs is a paint job. It needs this as result of having my home insulated. Because last year was, by far, the wettest year on record, I wasn't able to complete painting it but will do so this summer. If I can put in tens of thousands of dollars, many hours of work, and comply with all City requests, yet still get rated poorly....Frankly, I have serious doubts about the quality of this program and the City's evaluations.
Pat Ballasch April 27, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I was at last nights meeting. My impression was: Mayor Summers wants residents to understand how important preserving and upgrading housing is to everyone. Friendlier respectful procedures have been implemented to help people get energized about maintaining their property. The enforcement of housing codes will be even handed and fair. The myth that," Absentee owners are creating the bulk of housing problems" was put to rest. There's some help for people with limited financial ability . The procedures in place should facilitate the preservation of our homes, protect values and make Lakewood a more pleasant place to live. In my opinion the decision makers are on the right track. Got to run. I've got some home projects that are waiting for me.
Steve April 27, 2012 at 05:50 PM
@ BOB. I wasn't going to relate to this, but things change. First off, all my properties are good to go, no infractions, how about yours? Second, I am all for this as long as they help those who cannot go it alone, financially. Thirdly, I took a stand to try to right a wrong for the voiceless dogs. We have no real viscous dogs here, and probably never did. If the State with all their expertise can repeal along with Cleveland, then what is stopping Lakewood from doing the right thing. I hope that if YOU ever take a stand to right a wrong, that you could count on me to help keep it front and center, by all legal means, to fix it. I still believe in bad people(owners), not bad dogs, and they have not addressed that yet

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