Mayor's Corner: Taking Care Of Our Buildings

Lakewood’s status as both a charming, historic place and as Ohio’s most densely populated city helps make our community unique and full of activity. Over 50,000 people call Lakewood’s 6.7 square miles home, with more than 32,000 housing units (most of which were built before World War II).  At City Hall, we are laser-focused on ensuring that buildings in Lakewood remain safe, especially with so many people living in and visiting our city, and considering the age of structures. With all this in mind, the work of our Division of Building and Housing is crucial to the quality of life in Lakewood.

Lakewood’s building and housing team, led by Commissioner Chris Parmelee, has a lot on their plate. A given year finds them overseeing a wide range of work on residential and commercial buildings and even food trucks. Our team of inspectors regularly reviews the condition of buildings across Lakewood and guides those looking to make repairs, alterations, or new builds.

Last year alone, our inspectors reviewed and issued over 2,700 building permits – these can include anything from the simple installation of a new water heater to the construction of an entirely new building. Building and Housing also oversees the annual licensing for owners of rental housing, which involves over 3,200 landlords.   This work on rental units also includes a full interior inspection every time title changes hands on an individual unit. 

For all single and two-family homes (whether rental or owner-occupied), the City performs an exterior inspection on a triennial basis. Our inspectors use a four-point scale, with a “1” finding no exterior code violations and a 4 finding “significant disrepair” with multiple major violations. Recently, we realized that we needed a similar level of regular review of Lakewood’s commercial buildings and worked to build new policies.

To this end, we introduced three new tools. First, beginning in 2023, we now perform exterior surveys of Lakewood’s 1,500 commercial structures. Second, for buildings over four stories tall and more than 30 years old and for parking structures, the City now requires owners to secure a structural engineer to regularly issue an expert report on building safety and overall condition. Finally, this year Lakewood will begin implementing its automotive business registration program to address the unique factors present in these commercial properties. (As noted, Building and Housing already oversees the City’s food truck registration process).

As you can see, our Building and Housing team and our policies are highly proactive in working to prevent problems with Lakewood buildings. However, our inspector also will respond quickly when we receive a complaint from the public. If violations are discovered, we always attempt to work with property owners to find solutions and connect people to tools and resources to address matters. The City also recently re-introduced the Heritage Home Program, which provides access to professional guidance and low-cost, below-market-rate financing.

There is an immense volume of work ongoing to keep Lakewood’s buildings in safe condition. The City and our residents are fortunate to have an excellent team looking out for all of us in the Division of Building and Housing and helping ensure that we all keep Lakewood’s buildings in top condition.

Volume 20, Issue 12, Posted 1:36 AM, 06.19.2024