Housing: What Lakewood Is All About

It was a little over a year ago, that I spent some time with Hilary Schickler, the director of LakewoodAlive's Housing outreach program. At that time, I watched her work with a couple of people that had come forward mostly as a last resort to save their homes. We visted some truly miserable pieces of property, spending time with people who were lost in the world of home ownership. This was followed by sitting in the back of Judge Pat Carroll's courtroom watching home owner after homeowner go in front of Judge Carroll, with excuses a plenty, nearly always followed by the same piece of advice from the Judge, "Sir, I do not want to fine you, it accomplishes nothing. Instead of me fining you $700 would it not make more sense to put that same $700 into your house?" While it sounded plain and simple when sitting in the back of the courtroom, you really have to put yourself in the shoes of those standing in front of the Judge to understand the confusion. In their world, everything is falling apart, possibly from layoffs, deaths in the family, divorces, simply not knowing what to do or who to talk to, and of course there is always just being embarrassed over letting it go and now needing help.

It was tough sitting there Friday after Friday watching so many Lakewoodites go through this, but it is something Judge Pat Carroll is dedicated to. Many times throughout his stay on the bench, the Judge has tried sometimes single-handedly to get Lakewood's housing stock back in order. Sitting here now it is obvious that the Judge and the residents of Lakewood have a great partner in Hilary, and in the housing program from LakewoodAlive. Hilary comes from a family of contractors; her husband, Mark, is one of the most sought after contractors in Cleveland. For years she worked alongside him, on his jobs, and on some of the many houses she has purchased and rebuilt in the hip Detroit Shoreway area. Over the years she has become very aware of the many programs and ways that a homeowner can reach out for help, for everything from unruly renters, to programs that will help pay for heat, furnaces, windows, plumbing, paint, roofs, porches, garages-- well damn near everything a homeowner needs to know. A walking encyclopedia of how-tos and where to find. If the mayor is right about Housing being the most important resource in this city, then certainly Hilary, with LA's programs, is the most important force we have going for us in the battle to keep our housing stock up to snuff.

Well as I mentioned that was over a year ago. I ended that story with,"My next installment will be..."  and then much like the homeowner who says he will fix the roof in the spring, the follow-up story fell through the cracks, and I lost touch with Hilary and the work she was doing. In all fairness I wanted to highlight some of the successes from her programs, and at that time there was just one. A couple weeks ago I got a call from Hilary and she said, "Well, were you kidding about the stories, or not?" I asked if she had any success stories, and she said to stop by and see. What I found were folders and photos of the many people she has helped in the past year, and the dozens of letters that literally referred to her as  a saint, and as the person who saved their home, and put their life back on track. While it is easy to think of this response as over the top, a home is the biggest investment most people will make in their lives. To be afraid, lost, and worried about being close to losing your house at a point that it is worth the least can be terrifying, so the letters make sense. But having watched her work with people, showing compassion, understanding and at times teaching some tough lessons to wake them up, I understand how they feel. She is a person fighting on the frontline and winning every day.

So we went from a simple paint program, to programs Paint, Housing, Court Advocate, Low Interest Loans, Deferred Loans, Advocacy, and bringing in many people that can help, from vocational students at Lakewood High and St. Eds, to people from the Nehemiah Mission, New Life Church, NHS, and so many others it becomes hard to list here. She is also more open to advice and helpful suggestions than many others in more obvious places to turn. In the end she truly loves Lakewood, and its rich history, and she understands that Lakewood is a wonderful bedroom community that has a bright future, only if we can retain and rebuild our housing stock. Member of the Historical Society, Lakewood Alive, with properties in Lakewood and children in Lakewood Schools--that would be in public schools-- she has become the go-to can-do person for any homeowner. So once again, I sit down with Hilary to speak of her and LA's success stories, and will spend time with the judge, and homeowners and look at how many come needing help for one thing, only to find out they can get help for a whole host of other things from combinations of programs put together to fit the needs of each homeowner.

So it is the  Autumn season,  time to think about heating. Here is a short list of what is available through Hilary at LakewoodAlive.
Funded by Dominion East Ohio Gas Company and administered through the Cleveland Housing Network. This program is free to income eligible residents (tenants and homeowners). The program is designed to help reduce gas bills and to make your home more energy efficient. The do not replace windows; however they can repair broken windows through the program. The program is available for properties up to 8 units; ? of the residents must qualify. Eligible, free services include a safety check of the furnace, hot water tank, electrical box and installation of a carbon dioxide detector.  As part of the safety check, electrical upgrades and furnace replacements may be part of the services provided* (*certain requirements must be met in order to be eligible for these). The program will also install insulation in the attic and/or sidewalls. Residents will also receive energy conservation tips. Applications are available from LakewoodAlive.
Eco Link:
This program is offered in partnership between the Ohio State Treasurer and participating banks. Through the State's participation, a 3% interest rate reduction is available for loans up to $50,000 for a 5 to 7 year term. The program is available only to homeowners of single family homes and half the loan amount must be used for qualifying energy-efficient products; the other half can be used for other home improvement projects. The installation of "Energy Star" certified products, including clothes washers, dishwashers, dehumidifiers, furnaces, hot water tanks, freezers, refrigerators, and room air conditioners are all eligible. You must use approved contractors. Key Bank, Huntington and US Bank are all participating lenders. For more information visit www.ecolink.ohio.gov or call 1-800-228-1102.
Home Energy Audit:
For $50, through Dominion East Ohio, GoodCents will conduct an in-house energy audit of your home. The retail value of the audit is $500. Pressure testing is performed through a "blower door" test to assess and measure the amount of air leakage occurring at the property. In addition, infa-red photography is also performed to ferret out energy leaks that may not have shown up through the blower door test. The audit generally takes 4 hours. If you do nothing, your cost is $50 for the report. You can receive a free carbon monoxide detector or you can have your $50 refunded if you make one of the audit's recommended improvements. If you want to have work done, rebates are available however you must use a contractor who has been certified by the Good Cents. Examples of rebates available include:
Natural gas furnace                up to $400
Nature gas water heater        up to $400
Insulation (attic, wall, duct)         $.30 per square foot (no maximum)
Air sealing                     $40 per hour, no maximum
Duct sealing                     $40 per hour, no maximum
Windows                 $5 per window
Exterior doors                      $30 per door
Thermostat                   $30 each, $60 maximum

To schedule a home energy assessment, call 877-287-3416 or go to the deohpwes.com.

Jim O'Bryan

Publisher, Lakewood Observer, Inc.

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Volume 7, Issue 21, Posted 1:17 PM, 11.01.2011