With deteriorating house next door, York City homeowner prepares to leave
Shannon Foraker moved into 454 Wallace St. with her family nine years ago.
The next year, she said Tuesday night before the York City Council, the house attached to hers, 452, began to deteriorate. It was not inhabited or maintained by its owners, though the house has changed hands several times.
The house now has weeds growing out from beneath the front door and is propped up by planks of wood. It's been designated by the fire company as structurally unsound.
The damage to 452 Wallace St. is so severe that it's now affecting Foraker's house, and she wants to leave the neighborhood.
"If you go up my steps to the second floor, my wall is bowing," she said. "The doorways are slanted. The brickwork at the front of the house is moving out of shape."
Foraker, who has three children, has had to replace the roof because the roof of the neighboring house was pushing hers out of alignment, and it's begun to leak again.
Hazards: Since 2007, she said, her kids have had to walk around 452, detouring off the sidewalk and onto the street, because of the level of deterioration. There have been bricks thrown through her windows; her car has been keyed and otherwise damaged.
"People think nobody lives in our house," she said.
Several years ago, when her younger daughter, now 10, was in kindergarten, Foraker brought her home from school to find an eviction notice on her door — the deteriorating house had caused such an appearance of blight that the two houses to either side of it had been deemed uninhabitable.
Foraker's companion had to miss a day of work to run around to various officials begging not to be evicted.
Priorities: Foraker, a cafeteria aide at William Penn Senior High School, is upset that the city doesn't seem to prioritize needs like hers. From her perspective, the city chooses to improve only the most visible areas, like the downtown arts district.
She has tried talking to many city officials but says she's been given the runaround. Speaking before the city council, Foraker asked why the situation had been allowed to exist for so long without being addressed. Why hasn't the city forced the owner of 452 Wallace St. to forfeit the house or made him fix it up?
"We even offered: If you tear the house down, we'll buy the land," she said. She said she has sunk thousands of dollars into her own house, but it continues to get worse.
Helfrich: Michael Helfrich, a city councilman who serves on the Vacant Property Review Committee, said he remembers reporting 452 Wallace St. to the mayor's administration. Nothing was done about it.
Helfrich isn't sure why but said it could have been because the owner had paid his taxes and said he'd fix the property up.
Also, the city doesn't like to take people's houses, he said.
"(It's not good) from the property-rights side or from the fiscal side," he said. When the city acquires a house, it loses tax revenue.
"But this (situation) is egregious," he said.
Two families: Jane Heller, a resident of Springettsbury Township who is active in the city community, has attempted to help Foraker with her situation. She has filed a right-to-know request to find out whether anything has been done to hold 452's owner accountable for the property's neglect.
Foraker doesn't know them well, but she said another family lives on the other side of 452.
"When we talk about bringing people back to the city " Heller said, exasperated. "I mean, you've got two families living in a state of constant fear."
Heller has encouraged Foraker to sue the city, but Foraker isn't sure. After another summer of seeing her home crumble and worrying for her children's safety, she is ready to give up. She and her partner have decided to move to the outskirts of the city, where they hope to have peace of mind. It's more expensive, she said, but it'll be worth it.
"I want to know that if my roof leaks, it's my fault," she said.