On May 30, 2012, City Council members approved giving the nonprofit group $160,000 in federal taxpayer money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish the house and build a new one.
Howard Goldberg, then Lorain’s community renewal director, told Council that the house was a “tipping point property” likely to degrade the neighborhood off West Erie Avenue if purchased by an investor rather than a homeowner.
The new house, across from Lakeview Park, was to be sold to someone with good credit who agreed to take home-ownership training and the house was to be owner-occupied for at least 15 years. The house would sell for about $106,000 with Lorain receiving 60 percent of the profit and Direct Action 40 percent.
“This is an important project because it strengthens the housing market in the Lakeview area,” Safety/Service Director Robert Fowler wrote to Council. “It frees up (federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program) funds so they can be used for demolition and strengthens DACL so that it can remain a viable nonprofit.”
The new house was supposed to be completed by May. However, more than a year after the approval, the old house remains standing and a new house is unlikely to be built.
Leon Mason, Lorain’s deputy safety service director for community programs and affairs, said building a new house is unlikely because the cost of demolition and construction far exceeds area property values.
Mason said earlier this month that he was frustrated by the delay and that Direct Action was slow to provide paperwork regarding the use of HUD money without producing new houses.
“Something doesn’t smell right,” Mason said of Direct Action, which owns 13 properties in Lorain besides the Lakeview property, according to the Lorain County auditor’s website.
Mason said last week that he met with Daniel Sabolsky, Direct Action executive director, and Direct Action board members and they provided him with documents. Mason said Direct Action may be ineligible to receive HUD money because Sabolsky doesn’t receive a salary, only benefits, from the group.
Sabolsky didn’t return calls over a week.
Mason said if Direct Action is ineligible, Lorain may have to return the HUD money. Mason said about $20,000 of the money has been spent on removal of siding and abatement. Another nonprofit may be sought to do the project.
Or Lorain may ask Direct Action to turn the home over to the Lorain County Land Bank for demolition.
“My job is to do what’s in the best interests of the city,” Mason said.
Neighbor Rob Cooperider said earlier this month that neighbors have taken turns mowing the front lawn of the home and put a flag up. They called city officials to get contractors to cut the back lawn, which he said wasn’t cut for months. The back lawn was recently cut by contractors.
Cooperider said animals have gotten into the home and tar paper on the house gets loose from the house. He said neighbors are frustrated about delays and disappointed that a new house may not be built.
“Nothing is happening,” he said
Next-door neighbor Ron Feldkamp, who has lived in his home since 1963, said he’d prefer to see the house rebuilt. However, Feldkamp said he would also favor demolition rather than the status quo.
“I just want some action,” said Feldkamp, 77.