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Officials say Lorain's Kennedy Plaza won't likely go elderly-only


LORAIN — Despite security complaints from some older residents at the John F. Kennedy Plaza public housing apartment complex, a consultant reported Thursday that making Kennedy an elderly-only complex is unlikely.

Don Lenz, head of Lenz Planning & Development Services, said a 1999 Supreme Court decision forbids restricting mentally or physically disabled people to disabled-only public housing. About a third of the tenants at the 177-unit complex are 62 or older with younger tenants having mental or physical disabilities.

“There would have to be an incredible plan for where everybody else would go,” Lenz told about 30 people at a Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority meeting. “It almost appears there would have to be impossible things that would have to be passed.”

Some tenants have complained that disabled tenants are dealing and using drugs, harassing and stealing from older tenants. However, Lenz said crime statistics from last July through March showed that just two of the 75 calls to police from the complex at 1730 Broadway were complaints alleging violent crimes.

Lenz also studied Lakeview Plaza, a 210-unit complex at 310 Seventh St. Just three of the 160 police calls from Lakeview alleged violent crimes during the same time period as the Kennedy study.

Lenz, who previously consulted for housing authorities in Cuyahoga and Stark counties, began work on a report in January. Complaints by Kennedy tenants prompted Councilwoman Anne Molnar, D-at large, to unsuccessfully lobby the Department of Housing and Urban Development to make Kennedy elderly-only.

Homer Virden, authority director, commissioned the study at Molnar’s request. Among the people Lenz interviewed were several Kennedy tenants, tenant representatives from both complexes as well as representatives from the Nord Center and The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Lenz said public housing tenants frequently complain to Legal Aid when they have problems with housing authorities, but there were few complaints regarding Lorain’s housing authority.

Despite federal budget cuts, authority leaders said security is good. While Kennedy doesn’t have police or security guards 24 hours per day, Virden said police patrol there 25 hours per week and guards from Wittguard Security Services are there 10 to 12 hours per week. There also are volunteer tenant patrols and 12 surveillance cameras

Lenz wrote in the report that crime statistics show Kennedy is a “relatively safe apartment building without major conflicts.” Lakeview, which has three floors of mentally disabled or mentally ill tenants, “has more issues and might have the beginnings of a good permanent supportive housing facility in the 50 Nord units.” Lenz said police told him there are no serious problems at Lakeview.

Like the rest of the nation, Lorain County’s elderly population is growing as baby boomers age and Lenz said more elderly housing will be needed in the future. Lenz also wrote that Kennedy needs about $5.2 million in improvements through 2033, and Lakeview needs about $3.4 million.

While additional money is needed, John McMahon, the authority’s assistant director, said both complexes are in good shape. He said more than $4 million has been spent on Kennedy and $2 million on Lakeview since 2009.

Kennedy resident Barb Flickinger, who has written a few letters to City Council members complaining about security at the complex, disputed Lenz’s conclusions. Flickinger, 55, who uses a wheelchair, said police and security guards don’t aggressively enforce rules against drug use and drug dealing and allow rowdy behavior by some tenants.

Molnar, 86, also was unhappy with Lenz’s conclusions. Molnar said she’ll continue to lobby HUD to make Kennedy elderly only.

“Being a senior, am I going to sit by and take it? No way,” she said. “Not as long as I have breath in (me).”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

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