The city’s effort to mitigate the negative effects of the housing market collapse by acquiring bank-owned properties continues at a historic pace. In the last month, it has taken control of six bank-owned properties – two apartment buildings, and four single-family houses – and demolished at least one other one.
The buying frenzy is being financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars provided by the federal government. Some of the homes will be rehabbed and resold, while others will be torn down. The ultimate success of the plan – which will be plainly visible to the residents who live near these properties – is dependent upon the city’s ability to implement a strategy to ensure that the structures do not become a drag on the neighborhood.
The directors of the Planning and Development and the Building and Housing departments, each appointed by Mayor Edward O. FitzGerald and approved by City Council, had absolutely no municipal experience prior to being hired.
The city paid $47,000 for this house on Gladys. It will be featured along with another city-owned house on Andrews in an upcoming event showcasing real estate around Downtown Lakewood.
David A. Dummermuth bought 1195 Gladys in September, 2005 with a $157,500 mortgage. A foreclosure case was filed in April, 2008. Dummermuth, a Shaker Hts. resident, declared bankruptcy in January, 2009. The home sold at sheriff’s auction in September, 2009 to Deutsche Bank for $44,000.
City Council gave approval at their March 1st meeting to allow the city enter into an agreement with a Realtor to find a buyer for the home. Nathan Kelly, director of planning and development, said the property will be featured at the March 13th, Lakewood Downtown Open House.
The former owners of this home on Cranford live just one street over.
Jason and Jennifer Yonkers bought 1297 Cranford in 2005 with a $124,000 mortgage. Foreclosure proceedings began in August, 2006, and again in October, 2007.
Court records show that the Yonkers, who live on Brockley in a house that is currently in the final stages of the foreclosure process, had several cash flow and legal problems.
Deutsche Bank purchased the house at sheriff’s auction for $46,667 in August, 2009. The City of Lakewood acquired it from them a couple of weeks ago for $54,900.
The city doubled its bet on Cranford by picking up the neighboring house, also bank-owned.
John Bohi bought 1301 Cranford in 2003 with a $87,000 mortgage. In December, 2007, he took out a $100,000 mortgage on the property. Foreclosure proceedings began in July, 2008. The house was sold to Key Bank at sheriff’s auction in March, 2009 for $90,608. The city picked it up late last week for $58,000.
The city acquired this house on Westlake for $59,000.
David Kovacs purchased 1269 Westlake in 2002 with a $84,500 mortgage. Two years later, he refinanced the mortgage for $119,850. Foreclosure proceedings began in March, 2008. Wells Fargo bought the house in November, 2009 at sheriff’s auction for $36,667. The city paid $59,000 on March 1st for the house.
Fifth Third Bank surrendered the deed to the city for the vacant apartment building that sits next to Calanni's on Madison Ave., near Bunts Rd.
North Ridgeville resident Tracy Brown bought 13736 Madison Ave. in 2003 as an investment property. He started interior renovations, and then ran out of money. The inside of the building is in poor condition. The city declared it a nuisance last year, and began the process of trying to demolish it. During one of his final appearances in Lakewood housing court in 2009, Brown said he was working with his lender on a deal where he’d forfeit the property to the bank, who would in turn fork it over to the city. All indications were that the city would then take it down. The property transferred to the city on February 16th.
The city formally gained control of this W. 117th apartment building on Feburary 2nd.
After a brief legal skirmish with the mortgage servicer, the city acquired the vacant apartment building at 1482-1484 W. 117th via sheriff’s auction for $50,000. It is said to be in poor condition and will be definitely demolished.
And according to a message on LakewoodBuzz.com, the city has notified residents in the area that it intends to knock down the nearby Highland Manor apartment building located at 1468 W. 117th around March 5th.
The structure is vacant and in a state of deterioration. It was successfully foreclosed upon, but the mortgage company refuses to send it to sheriff’s auction.
When a city loses two apartment buildings to neglect that are less than sixty yards apart on the same street, one would hope it might trigger some kind of profound self-examination on the part of residents, city administrators and elected representatives. Clearly, something is very wrong and needs to be corrected. And it goes beyond the standard line — “The market has failed this property.” — uttered by city administrators.
Yes, the obvious lack of parking hurt the viability of these properties, but there are plenty of apartments around the city that have little to no parking available and are doing just fine.
Until the city locks down Ward 4, where these buildings are located, and proactively and aggressively enforce the housing laws, nuisance ordinances, and criminal codes, the situation will not improve.
Other housing notes
- The city is not formally tracking vacant houses for fear that such a list could provide a “shopping list” to criminals, according to Housing and Building Director Ashby.
- After two years and two months in office, Mayor FitzGerald is finally getting around to creating legislation that would require banks to notify the city when a house in foreclosure becomes vacant. The city is modeling their plan after a Bedford Heights law.
- The department is getting new software in the next couple of months that is supposed help streamline internal information, and allow inspectors to spend more time in the field. There have been a few attempts to install various types of software in the department over the years with negligible results, according to the mayor. The latest effort has been described in glowing terms by the administration, and has caused a twinkle in the eye of each and every city council member. No questions asked.
- The Building and Housing department will not be hiring any additional inspectors. The topic came up at a recent council meeting. Coucilperson Thomas Bullock (Ward 2) and green banana Monique Smith (At-Large) asked representatives from the housing department point blank if they could use more inspectors.
Assistant Building Commissioner for Residential Housing Jeff Fillar said he is most concerned with getting the current personnel up-to-date with their certifications, education and training, and adding new people isn’t in the equation.
The mayor repeated a variation of a statement he’s made in the past: no inspectors will be hired until the department successfully transitions to the new software, and improves from its dysfunctional past.
- LakewoodAlive representatives, a handful of senior city administrators, and a few council people gathered in private a few weeks ago to plot out the city’s housing strategy.
- Lakewood Municipal Court hired a retired city housing inspector on a part-time basis to coordinate a diversion program to deal with select types of housing, building and health code violations. It will mostly be limited to cases involving owner-occupied properties and is supposed to allow housing inspectors to spend more time in the field, and less time in court. It sounds like a decent deal on paper, and hopefully will be a step in the right direction. The part-time status of the coordinator could be a reason for concern, however. Part-time efforts, no matter how well intentioned, frequently end in half-assed results.
- Peter Machlup the self-proclaimed co-owner of the house that formerly stood at 1570 Woodward has moved his legal action against the city from county court to federal court. You can read his initial complaint (.PDF), the city’s response (.PDF), and his rebuttal (.PDF).
Basically, he’s not happy the city didn’t recognize him as a co-owner of the property and feels the nuisance and demolition appeals process was not fair.