December 22, 2014

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Lorain woman unhappy with home improvement work done with city loan money

Marcia Stahl, of Lorain, has paid nearly $2,000 in monthly payments over the course of 13 years on a home repair loan from Lorain's former Community Development Department. Stahl said much of the work hasn't been done or hasn't been done correctly within her home. Here she expresses that the water in her downstairs bathroom has not worked for several years. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Marcia Stahl, of Lorain, has paid nearly $2,000 in monthly payments over the course of 13 years on a home repair loan from Lorain’s former Community Development Department. Stahl said much of the work was down improperly. Here she expresses that the water in her downstairs bathroom has not worked for several years. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

LORAIN — Marcia Stahl said she’s made payments of $13.86 every month on her $31,712, 20-year home improvement loan from the city of Lorain since 2001, but some work was done improperly.

Stahl is only responsible for paying the $2,500 principal of the loan. If her property is leased, rented or sold, the remainder of the loan would have to be repaid.

Stahl lives in the 1000 block of West 18th Street, said some first-floor windows were improperly installed in 2001, a bathroom sink doesn’t work and the railing along the basement stairs that Stahl said was supposed to be part of follow-up work was never done.

Stahl, a 62-year-old retired accountant who moved into the home in 1991, admits she was satisfied with the work for years after it was done. She said she didn’t notice problems with the work until 2010.

Stahl said she was promised by a now-retired city worker in 2010 that in addition to repairs, the railing would be installed, but none of the work has been done.

“Everybody forgot that I was waiting,” said Stahl, who has made $1,812 in payments, according to Rey Carrion, Building, Housing and Planning Department director.

Carrion said Stahl’s complaints are rare. Since the program began in 1994, he said about $3.8 million has been loaned to 186 homeowners with the average loan about $20,000. Loans are made with federal taxpayer money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program.

The local program was administered by the Community Development Department. The department, rocked by a scandal involving former department Director Sandy Prudoff — convicted in 2012 on federal corruption charges — was considered dysfunctional by Mayor Chase Ritenauer. The department, along with the Building Department, merged into the Building, Planning and Housing Department in June.

Carrion, hired by the Community Development Department in 1996 and named acting director in 2011, said he wasn’t involved much with the loan program in the past. Carrion, appointed director Sept. 12, said the program will be streamlined to ensure loans are repaid. Default statistics were unavailable last week.

Carrion said he met with Stahl in August and will meet with her again to address her concerns. Carrion said most homeowners have praised the program for improving their property values and reducing neighborhood blight.

He said many would not be able to obtain conventional loans or get deferred payments at the same low rates the program offers. Some write thank-you letters years after the repairs.

“It’s something people really appreciate,” Carrion said. “It helps people that would not normally be able to do those repairs to have a better quality of life.”

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