October 23, 2014

Elyria
Partly sunny
53°F
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Renters want cut of Elyria Schools buyouts

ELYRIA — Elyria Schools officials fielded heated complaints from a handful of apartment residents Tuesday who said the district’s plans to demolish properties near the high school to make room for a new building leaves them out in the cold.
Six tenants showed up at Tuesday’s meeting that school officials held at Wesleyan Village, where a handful of community groups, such as South Elyria Neighborhood Development, as well as banks, were on hand to tout lending programs and financial assistance available for homeowners who will be relocated as part of the district’s plan to buy the parcels between Middle and West avenues and Sixth and Seventh streets for the school.
But the meeting took an unexpected turn when the renters complained that while money is available for the landlords, there isn’t any for the tenants — the people actually forced to move.
School officials said public money can be used only to purchase actual homes, so they can’t help defray renters’ moving costs.
One renter told school officials that he’s locked into a lease that his landlord won’t break, despite the fact the apartment is on the district’s list to demolish. The renter’s landlord couldn’t be reached Tuesday night.
Elyria Schools Superintendent Paul Rigda said the district could have some pull in the matter and encouraged renters to set up meetings with the school officials and property owners.
But as it stands, landlords and property owners in the target area will receive a chunk of money for their property; renters will be left fending for themselves.
“I’ll have to pay moving costs, a new deposit, everything,” said Janet Rogers, who rents in that area. “I don’t think anyone realizes it’s really hurting us, too.” 
Community groups like South Elyria Neighborhood Development said they could help renters find attorneys who offer pro bono work, but they had no resources to help pay moving costs.
And that bill is what the renters said is their biggest concern.
Apartments sit on more than 20 parcels in the targeted area, while about a dozen of the parcels are owner-occupied homes. The remainder — roughly 20 parcels — consists of vacant properties or commercial land.
The homes and apartments will be flattened to accommodate a $68 million high school the district is poised to build since Elyria voters approved a tax levy on May 8 to fund the project. The state will also pitch in about 40 percent of the cost. 
Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.