December 22, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
40°F
test

Property registry considered in Lorain

LORAIN — A vacant buildings registry is being considered by city officials to increase accountability for foreclosed properties and decrease blight.

“Our housing is at the critical point right now, where if we don’t turn it around it’s not going to be able to be turned around,” Councilman Dan Given, D-at large, said Monday during a City Council Buildings & Lands Committee meeting. “We want to make this town better, and this is going to be one of the first steps.”

The nation’s foreclosure crisis hit Lorain hard. One in every 364 homes was in foreclosure in January, according to RealtyTrac, a website that tracks foreclosures.

The rate is above Lorain County’s rate of one in 424, and substantially higher than the Ohio rate of one in 616 and the national rate of one in 624.

The registry may be modeled after one in South Euclid where flipping of properties and speculation devastated neighborhoods, according to Sally Martin, South Euclid housing manager. She said city officials’ hand are being forced by the private sector.

“It’s going to try to trade houses as cheaply as possible, not do anything and make a quick buck,” Martin told Council members. Martin said the registry was a way to control “a cancer that was consuming our community.”

Martin said South Euclid blocks transfer of properties that aren’t brought up to code. Since the registry was approved in March 2010, some 300 homes have come into compliance or are in stages of compliance, according to South Euclid Building Inspector Rick Loconti, who said he inspects about one home per day. He said 200 of those properties have been sold.

The Lorain registry would require yearly registration for $100 by the “owner, agent, lessee or party in control of any vacant building” or mortgagees who have filed pending foreclosure actions. They would be required to make monthly inspections to ensure properties were up to code.

Escrow accounts of at least $1,000 and equal to the cost of necessary repairs would be set up by parties to a sale before transfers could occur. Buyers agreeing to repairs would have six months to complete them.

Vassie Scott of the Lake Erie Landlords Association said association members support the registry as long as it accounts for responsible landlords such as those leaving properties vacant while finding suitable tenants or those who board up windows and doors to prevent burglaries.

“We need it, and we applaud the administration for going forward,” Scott said of the registry.

The registry is expected to be voted at Monday’s or April 2’s Council meeting.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.