Orphaned house in need of a family

February 20, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

To the residents of the 500 block of E. 26th St., house No. 505 represents all that is wrong with the city Housing Authority.

No. 505 is a three-bedroom, semi-detached dwelling that is owned by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. It has been vacant for nearly three weeks despite a waiting list for public housing of about 16,000 names. No. 505, near Greenmount Avenue, is boarded up and vulnerable to vandals.

The situation has angered residents, the community association and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.

Ms. Clarke this week demanded that top administrators of the Housing Authority rent No. 505 to a family before it becomes prey to vandals -- the fate of many of the 2,842 vacant, scattered-site units owned by the Housing Authority.

Often, the vacant units are stripped of plumbing, appliances and furnaces by vandals before the Housing Authority is made aware that they are vacant. Renovations cost taxpayers up to $45,000 per unit.

Ms. Clarke said she determined that "everyone did the right thing" concerning No. 505, but she charged that the Housing Authority is now dragging its feet.

She said the family that had rented No. 505 for 21 years notified the Housing Authority before moving out and that neighbors also reported the vacancy to a hot line set up by the authority. The Housing Authority boarded up the house.

"It's like a textbook case," Ms. Clarke said. "Everybody has done the correct thing."

So why is No. 505 still vacant?

Zack Germroth, Housing Authority spokesman, said yesterday that a recent inspection of No. 505 revealed it needs major repairs to the front porch and inside floors. Those conditions were not noted when the house was last inspected on Nov. 20, 1992, he said.

The repair work will keep No. 505 vacant until at least mid-March, Mr. Germroth said. The repairs have been put out to bid because of a shortage of Housing Authority maintenance employees.

Ms. Clarke said that Robert W. Hearn, executive director of the Housing Authority, told her that authority rules were also holding up renting out No. 505.

"Dr. Hearn said there are rules about who gets priority," Ms. Clarke said. "I said I don't care, move in a family. If we can't get this house filled with this [large waiting list], then [U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry] Cisneros can send in Fort Knox and it's not going to make a difference."

Ms. Clarke also said that a homeless family can be moved into No. 505 while the repair work is being done.

"My feeling is fine, move in and let's fix it. Let's not let it turn into a derelict shell because the porch is rickety," she said. "I'm not pointing fingers at anyone, but it's been two weeks."

Danise Jones-Dorsey, interim deputy executive director of the Housing Authority, said the agency does not move tenants into a dwelling while it is being renovated because of liability concerns.

Nevertheless, Betty Palmer, president of The 26ers, the 500 block's community group, said she fears that No. 505 will be destroyed if it is not occupied soon.

"We have a couple of vacant houses in the neighborhood and people have stripped them," said Ms. Palmer, who has lived on 26th Street for nearly five years.

"The Housing Authority came in last week and put boards over the doors [of No. 505] and so far, so good," she said.

"But still it's tempting. I expect that we can't watch the house 24 hours per day. We just want to keep it from harm. We want somebody to be put in the house."

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