April 17, 2014

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Lorain mayor aims to raze old house, but city only has rehab funding

LORAIN — Why spend more to rehabilitate an abandoned home than what it’s worth, particularly when it would cost far less to demolish?

Members of the City Council’s Federal Programs Committee and Mayor Chase Ritenauer pondered that question at Monday’s committee meeting. The home in question is at 1105 W. 10th St., but the dilemma involves many blighted homes in Lorain where the foreclosure rate exceeds the Lorain County, state and national averages.

One in every 451 homes in Lorain was in foreclosure in October, according to Realty Trac, a real estate website. The county rate was one in 475. The overall Ohio rate was one in 525 and the national rate was one in every 978.

The West 10th Street home is valued at $56,000. It would probably cost $8,000 to $10,000 to demolish it, Ritenauer told council.

Lorain has $124,162 in federal taxpayer money to rehabilitate the home. But the money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program can only be spent to rehab the home rather than raze it, which Ritenauer would prefer.

Lorain demolished about 70 blighted homes last year and nearly 100 this year.

Lorain has already spent its demolition portion of the money and Ritenauer said a percentage must be spent on rehabilitations.

In addition to demolitions, the program’s goal is stabilize neighborhoods by rehabbing homes rather than selling them at a profit.

Ritenauer said the home was among those purchased after the housing market crash from banks in 2009 during the administration of former Mayor Tony Krasienko.

While he would like more flexibility with the money, Ritenauer said Lorain is in a use-it-or-lose-it position.

If the money isn’t spent by the end of the year, it will go to the county where other communities may spend it on rehabilitations.

Given the lack of money for demolitions, Ritenauer said he’d rather see the money spent on a rehab than lost.

“We still have to maintain it whether it’s a vacant lot or whether it’s a rehabilitated house,” he said. “What’s done is done and we still have to figure out the best end game for these properties.”

Councilman Myroslaw Silecky, D-7th Ward, said the house is an eyesore and rehab makes more sense than losing the money. “It is a just a problem child for the whole neighborhood as it is now,” he said.

Committee members tabled the matter.

The last scheduled Council meeting at which a decision could be made is Dec. 16.

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