Dover inspects — and clears — five of seven House of Pride properties Feb. 18, and gives them two weeks to remedy minor violations.

A collection of buildings owned by Dover nonprofit House of Pride were cleared for habitation last week after volunteers worked diligently for more than a month to correct a slew of outstanding code violations identified by city inspectors.

In January the city’s Planning Commission ordered that the repairs be made within 30 days to nine New Street properties owned by the organization, which provides transitional housing services for men participating in and moving out of drug rehabilitation programs.

Inspectors made their final checks of the buildings on Feb. 18, the deadline set by the commission.

City planning director Ann Marie Townshend said all the serious violations identified by her staff, including fire safety hazards and structural deficiencies, were remedied on schedule.

Minor finishing work at some of the houses was to be completed over the weekend, Townshend said, and would be re-inspected this week.

“The violations were corrected, so I think that’s what we needed, that’s what we were looking for,” she said. “They had qualified contractors in there making the repairs, a couple of outstanding things were being worked on when the inspections were done. They were just minor things that were in the process of being fixed.”

In addition to plumbing, electrical and aesthetic fixes, Townshend said House of Pride handled all of the major safety and health hazards in the buildings.

“The life safety issues were very clearly addressed, that was important; fire alarm systems were operational, smoke detectors were operational,” she said. “The things that were characterized as life safety and fire code corrections were all done.”

House of Pride volunteer coordinator Stacey Arnold said the effort to fix up the houses took some $250,000 worth of donations and pro-bono work, and more than 250 people.

Arnold said one anonymous benefactor donated the time and materials of 20 contractors, including plumbers and electricians.

Workers installed fire doors, replaced worn out sub-floors, completely replaced two bathrooms and remodeled an entire kitchen worth $50,000 on its own, she said.

Volunteers from Dover Air Force Base, numerous local churches and Wesley College all lent their hands to cleaning up debris and trash, scraping old paint and generally helping out.

Arnold said she and the men served by House of Pride are eternally grateful for the outpouring of support.

“I can’t even explain how much of a blessing it’s been for these men,” she said. “It’s given them such a huge appreciation and it just makes them want to work three times as much. It’s just been amazing.

“To lift people up and give them hope, it can change the world.”

This recent push for building code compliance is just the latest in a series of similar episodes. In the past, House of Pride has made necessary repairs under tight deadlines, only to have the maintenance situation degrade again.

But, Townshend said this time she is confident that the organization will better plan for the future.

“We want to work with them to develop a plan to sustain compliance because that’s been one of the challenges,” she said. “I think that repairs made this time around were better repairs, so I think they’re in a stronger position.

Arnold said the group is committed to making organizational changes, something critics have said needs to happen in order to keep House of Pride on the right track.

“This is really the first phase in revamping; they’ve got to rework the board, everything,” she said. “It’s not just the houses, it’s the whole organization that’s getting worked on. A lot of people are disgruntled that this is going continue and it’s not.”



Demolition moving forward

In a matter unrelated to the mandated building repairs, plans to demolish a House of Pride structure at 106 S. New St. are progressing, after a rushed deadline for the group to repair the residence expired Feb. 21.

City Council voted unanimously Feb. 14 to proceed with demolition in seven days if House of Pride failed to repair the building or have it torn down on its own.

According to city staff, the house’s foundation is severely damaged and the building is unfit for habitation. The building has been unoccupied since 1999.

Arnold said House of Pride does not have the money to make the extensive repairs that would be required or to pay for a demolition.

Townshend said the building will be torn down at the city’s expense and a lien will be placed on the property. Including asbestos abatement, the demolition is estimated to cost $20,000.

Since House of Pride cannot pay to have the building shored up, even temporarily, volunteers won’t be able to remove the extensive collection of donated items currently being stored inside before the structure is demolished.

Arnold said the items, which include clothing, electronics and furniture, were supposed to be sold at a House of Pride thrift store that never came to fruition.