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HUD offers no ‘serenity’ for Lake Elsinore neighborhood

Lake Elsinore Councilman Robert “Bob” Magee

In the southern part of Lake Elsinore sits a quiet residential community called Serenity. A standard mature Riverside County subdivision with red tile roofs, stucco walls, RVs in the side yard, and pools in the back yard. The neighbors here enjoy their community and their proximity to neighboring Serenity Park. However, on Cape Drive, the serenity has been broken.

Four years ago, a homeowner on Cape Drive died, leaving no known heirs. As legend has it, the expired homeowner’s long-time caretaker moved in and took possession of the house. A series of squatters followed, taking up residency and slowly destroying the property.

Neighbors contacted the city’s Code Enforcement Department, which deployed its usual tools to gain control of the property and protect the neighborhood. However, their efforts were stymied by the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD).

HUD owned the mortgage on the house, and when the payments ceased after the homeowner’s death, they took no action to secure the property or remove the squatters. Neighbors are subjected to drug dealing and prostitution activity operating in and out of the home at all hours of the day and night.

The Sheriff’s Department took action and repeatedly raided the home, taking these individuals into custody. But that was not a lasting solution; as we all know, drug offenses in California are now simple misdemeanors. The home is a revolving door of illicit activity with unsavory individuals.

Code Enforcement dug in and red-tagged the structure, disconnected water and power. Yet, like cockroaches, the parasites returned again and again to inhabit the vacant home and pollute the neighborhood. While HUD foreclosed on the property, they continued to allow the vagrants access, even allowing for the return of water and power to the home.

Frustrated, the city council initiated legal proceedings against HUD for failure to maintain their property. The city requested that a receiver be appointed as part of a nuisance abatement action to take control of the property, remove the trespassers, repair the structure, and place it back on the market, thereby increasing the available housing inventory.

The State Judge granted the motion, and HUD moved the case to Federal Court on the very same day, which resulted in the State Court Judge losing jurisdiction to sign the receivership order.

HUD now has clear title to the property, and drug dealing and prostitution have continued under their control for the last four years while they refuse to protect the neighbors in Serenity who pay taxes for the privilege of supporting the efforts of this rogue Agency.

HUD has officially informed the city that they will not remediate the property but may place the home back on the market in an “as-is” condition in approximately one year.

I recommend the department’s name be changed to reflect what HUD is doing to the good people of Serenity. HUDD: The Department of Housing for Unemployed Drug Dealers!

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