October 1, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria family is displaced after home is condemned

ELYRIA — A day that likely started just like any other for an Elyria family of seven took a turn for the worse when city officials tacked a “condemned’’ notice on their front porch, leaving the entire family seeking a place to live.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, the home in the 100 block of Water Street was condemned. Moments later, with city officials standing by, several adults began hauling personal belongings from the home — flat-screen televisions, boxes of food, and children’s backpacks and clothes.

After they left, large wooden boards were nailed to the doors and windows on the lower level. It was a striking contrast to the obvious signs of family life — Christmas lights still strung across the porch roof, a Happy Holidays sign with a cheerful snowman tacked on the front door, toys in the yard and on the porch.

Building inspectors went to the home Wednesday to follow up on a complaint about a collapsed garage only to find the home in such deplorable condition that the only remedy was immediate eviction.

The garage reportedly collapsed Tuesday night. After the inspector checked out the fallen garage, the homeowners allowed an interior inspection of the home, which prompted the condemnation order.

“The city is not in the business of telling people to leave their homes, but this is a very rare occasion of a home that has some imminent safety issues,” Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said.

The main issue was the lack of a primary and suitable heating source, said Chief Building Inspector Phil Lahetta. The furnace was broken and the family was using kerosene and electric heaters to heat the home.

The heaters posed a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, and cans of fuel were being stored in the home.

The water tank also needs to be repaired, although the home had hot water.

“We definitely need to find out what kind of remedy can be found before the family is allowed back in the home,” Lahetta said. “In its current condition, it is not fit for human occupancy based on the housing violations found. This is rare, because it doesn’t get this bad with someone remaining in the home.”

Five adults and two children were living in the home.

Kevin Brubaker, operations manager of the Building Department, said the interior of the home had trash and clutter throughout.

“We will issue violation orders on everything that can be fixed, but they cannot stay in the home until things are fixed,” he said. “But this ranks right up there with the vacant homes I have been in.”

The Water Street home is a stone’s throw from another home Brubaker was in just months ago. That home was vacant and also condemned but showed obvious signs that it was once a family home — a discarded Barbie doll was on the floor, along with children’s books and graded school papers.

That home will likely be demolished in the coming months. As for the home from Wednesday, city officials have vowed to work with the family to get them back in it. The conditions of the home show city officials that some residents need a lot more help to keep up with the obligations of homeownership.

Brubaker said the home was owner-occupied.

The adults who were carrying belongings out of the home declined to talk with a reporter. An elderly woman would only say the family would be fine, and they had a place to go.

The Lorain County auditor’s office lists the owners as Karen and Andrew Mayer. The auditor’s website states the home was built in 1900 and is more than 1,400 square feet in size with four bedrooms and one bathroom.

The family could be in line for funds through the Community Development Department’s emergency rehabilitation program. The program is funded with federal tax dollars and is designed to be spent in low- to moderate-income neighbors.

“It is our understanding the family understands our concerns and wants to make the repairs so they can return to their home. We want that to happen as well,” Siwierka said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.