April 20, 2014

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Lorain homes being graded to determine which ones will be demolished

LORAIN — Laura Moore said she has lived next to the blighted, vacant home at 1034 Fourth St. since she moved in in 1992.

Moore’s house is well kept, but the two-story, wood-framed abandoned house next to hers has grass 2 feet high on the front lawn. Brush and branches are piled high by the side of the house, and Moore said homeless people sometimes enter the house, which has been stripped of copper and other fixtures.

“It’s just getting worse and worse,” Moore said Thursday to members of a team conducting an inventory of Lorain’s 25,000 to 30,000 homes. “If I wanted to sell, I couldn’t. No one’s going to want to live next to that.”

The inventory, being done by the Cleveland-based Western Land Conservancy’s Thriving Communities Institute, grades homes from A to F. It will provide an online, color-coded map for city officials and is designed to better leverage demolition money for homes like the one at the corner of Fourth and Hamilton streets.

The house is one of 26 properties the Board of Demolition Appeals is expected to approve for demolition at its June 13 meeting, according to acting Community and Economic Development Director Rey Carrion. The board will review 14 homes May 30 and some 55 on June 27.

However, eliminating all blighted houses in Lorain remains a monumental task.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer in March said up to 1,100 homes need to be razed — his goal is up to 200 this year — and the inventory will determine which ones fall first.

Times remain tough. About 650 homes were in foreclosure in April, and about 8 percent of Lorain’s homes were vacant, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate website. Foreclosures were 62 percent higher in April than in April of last year.

The longer foreclosed homes remain vacant the more blighted they become, but the demand for demolition far exceeds money for it. Adrian Maldonado, the inventory project leader, said demolishing a house like the one at 1034 Fourth St., will cost about $8,000.

“We’re providing the city with the information to strategically utilize limited funds,” said Sarah Ryzner, institute projects director. “The intention is to take down the worst of the worst and then quantify what that need is between the available money and how much it would take to tear down the rest of the inventory the city is looking to clear out.”

The inventory, which began May 13 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of June, is being paid for with a $50,000 grant from the Nord Family Foundation, an Amherst-based private, charitable trust.

Some 3,500 houses have been graded so far, Ryzner said.

The inventory is being done by Maldonado and six college students who are Lorain residents. Some 200 parcels — besides houses, empty lots are counted — are being done per day. The students, who do the grading from sidewalks and work in teams of two, judge homes based on a criteria that includes whether homes are vacant as well as the quality of landscaping, paint jobs, roofing and windows.

Grades for each home are logged from iPads into a Geographical Information System, computer software maintained by the institute. Ryzner said the inventory is modeled after a 2008 project done in Youngstown and Warren, but the current inventory is more technologically advanced.

Maldonado praised the enthusiasm of the students who include Allie Witherspoon, a junior at Bowling Green State University. Witherspoon said she and fellow students hope the inventory will improve Lorain.

“The fact that we’re taking part in it makes us feel better,” Witherspoon said.

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

  • Tyrone Montgomery

    they should not only do homes but businesses as well.. like the one on the corner of 14th and oberlin avenue

  • therest_ofthestory

    I’d like to know what the actual criteria is and how subjective it is!