Middletown wants to pay for your home repairs. Do you qualify? (2024)

Update: Applications for the expanded house repair grant program were slated to open July 8, but will now open July 22, Middletown communications manager Clayton Castle told The Enquirer on Monday. This story has been updated to reflect the new launch date.

Broken windows, drooping roofs and peeling paint: A citywide code enforcement sweep in Middletown will target blight like this and more, leaving some homeowners worried about paying for repairs.

Middletown wants to pay for your home repairs. Do you qualify? (1)

But those same homeowners can soon take advantage of a newly expanded city-funded program that offers home repair grants in some areas up to $8,500.

After years of residents complaining codes weren't being enforced, Middletown City Council decided to launch a code enforcement sweep, council member Steve West told The Enquirer.

Starting in select areas Monday, code enforcement specialists will perform outdoor inspections looking for violations such as grass longer than 6 inches, indoor furniture and appliances being stored outside and junk cars.

Other violations, such as deteriorating roofs, broken windows and doors, will require more expensive repairs.

Middletown wants to pay for your home repairs. Do you qualify? (2)

Some residents welcomed sweep. Others criticized it

The city has employed five full-time code enforcement specialists for a couple of years, with salaries ranging from $43,682 to $63,124. One new specialist will be added to the team July 18 with a salary of $63,124, a public records request revealed.

However, residents have complained about codes not being enforced for years, West said.

"We saw kids playing in piles of trash," he said after walking through neighborhoods with city management. "Kids deserve better."

Middletown's almost entirely new council, led by Mayor Elizabeth Slamka, began talks about a code enforcement sweep in the spring. Summer was an ideal time for inspections because exterior repairs could be made, West said.

Other residents, though, were skeptical of the initiative. In a Facebook group dedicated to Middletown residents, some users complained that the sweep would unfairly target low-income residents.

West acknowledged these residents could be disproportionately impacted, and said the city's response to this will be the newly expanded Homeowner Improvement Repair Program.

Middletown wants to pay for your home repairs. Do you qualify? (3)

Grant program offers some homeowners money for home repairs

Council steered $100,000 to the Homeowner Improvement Repair Program in May. Initially, the program offered grants of up to $3,000 for necessary repairs and improvements to home exteriors for homeowners in three Middletown neighborhoods.

As of last month, West said, around 30 homeowners applied for the grant and some have been awarded money.

The program will expand July 22, opening applications to all homeowners living west of Breiel Boulevard, an area with older homes. Applicants will be able to receive grants of up to $8,500.

The money will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no income restrictions on who can apply.

But that could change. Council will likely reevaluate the program's success in the fall, West said, and look for a way to prioritize applicants based on income, age of home and necessary repairs.

With applicant restrictions in place, West said he'd like to raise the amount in the fund to up to $1 million.

"I think that could make a significant impact," he said. "You could literally transform entire communities within a year."

Homeowners awarded the grant can receive up to 50% of the money in advance, with the remaining paid after the repair has been completed. Only one approved application is allowed each year.

Middletown wants to pay for your home repairs. Do you qualify? (4)

What happens if I get a code violation?

Code enforcement specialists will perform outdoor inspections at businesses, homes and rentals. They will look at buildings, sidewalks, doors, windows, chimneys, detached garages, porches, balconies, gutters fences and decks.

Residents will see specialists on sidewalks, alleys, walkways or driveways, but they are not allowed to walk on lawns, inside homes or into backyards.

Inspections will take place in these areas:

  • District 1 (July 8-19): Airport/Riverfront, Harlan Park, Downtown, Church, Oakland, Lakeside and Roselawn.
  • District 2 (July 22-Aug. 2): South Middletown, Prospect, Douglass, Meadowlawn and Amanda/Oneida.
  • District 3 (Aug. 5-16): Sherman, Highlands, Barbara Park and Mayfield.
  • District 4 (Aug. 19-30): Sunset/Park Place, El Dorado/Williamsdale, University, Wildwood, Avalon, Riverside Village, Dixie Heights, Springhill, Northeast and Manchester Meadows.
  • District 5 (Sept. 2-13): Sawyer’s Mill, Rosedale/The Oaks, Creekview, Euclid Heights/Runnymede, Lewis/Clifton Farms, Greenfields, Far Hills, Thorny Acres/Burnham Woods, Towne Mall, New England Heights and Renaissance.

If a violation is found, the specialist will post a notice on the property and alert the resident or landlord by mail. Homeowners, renters and business owners will typically get an abatement period to fix the violation.

Nuisance violations, like too-tall grass or trash outside, have a seven-day abatement period. Cars parked on lawns are considered a zoning violation, which has a 20-day abatement period.

Major repairs, like replacing broken windows and doors or fixing roofing and siding, fall under property maintenance, which homeowners have 30 days to complete. Homeowners can also request an extension for lengthy repairs.

Violations will be marked as "resolved" if residents correct them within the abatement period. If not, they could face fines or be summoned to court.

West said the hope is the sweep will rectify the more serious violations, like safety hazards, and improve residents' quality of life.

"I don't care if someone's grass is 7 inches tall," he said. "We're looking at the major health and safety aspects."

Middletown wants to pay for your home repairs. Do you qualify? (5)

Will these repairs increase property taxes?

Another concern council has fielded from residents about the sweep has to do with property taxes.

Butler County homeowners saw an increase in both property taxes and values this year. Property taxes increased on average 13% and property values saw a whopping 37% increase.

Increases in property value did account for some of the tax hike, but not all, since state law limits most property taxes to bring in a certain amount.

Middletown's code enforcement sweep and Homeowner Improvement Repair Program could result in more houses with new windows and doors, and fixed roofs and fences.

West argued that the initiatives won't significantly raise property values, or property taxes because they won't allow for full home remodels.

He also said residents should ask themselves: "If you pay a couple more pennies on the dollar just because your neighborhood doesn't look as bad, is that worth it?"

Middletown wants to pay for your home repairs. Do you qualify? (2024)
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