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By Thomas J. Sullivan–
When building inspectors and code enforcement visited longtime Citrus Heights resident Michael Mitchel’s deteriorating home earlier this year and declared it hazardous and unsafe to occupy, Mitchel packed his bags and temporarily moved out — not knowing how he’d be able to make the repairs needed to make his home habitable again.
Mitchel, who developed cerebral palsy on the right side of his body at birth, receives limited federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monies and knew he wouldn’t be able to physically or financially make the repairs on his own.
But several months later, to his complete surprise, he found that volunteers from the Sacramento Valley Association of Building Officials (SVABO) and local businesses had transformed the general condition of his home, inside and out. The hazardous declaration had been lifted and a welcome sign greeted him at the front door.
Greg Anderson, chief building official for the City of Citrus Heights and SVABO’s Outreach Committee chairman said he had brought Mitchel’s plight to the attention of fellow members. He said Rick Kelley, vice chair of the committee, was involved from the very beginning and responsible for the success of the project.
As an initial step, Kelley reached out to Mitchel’s former spouse who co-owned the home but did not reside there.
“She was very receptive to the ideas that were presented to her and things just started falling into place after that,” said Anderson. “We had many individuals, contractors and suppliers more than willing to contribute to make this project a big success.”
Since Mitchel was temporarily staying with his daughter in Washington State, he was unaware anything was taking place. His family thought it was best to keep it a secret and a total surprise for when they brought him back home last month, at which time he could legally re-occupy his home with the much-needed improvements completed.
Anderson said local business participants who helped provide time and materials for the project included Quality First Home Improvements, River City Restoration, Linmoore Fencing, City Gutters, Engle Insulation and Republic Services.
Additionally, Beach Hut Deli provided lunch for the work crews, and HD Supply provided smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Anderson said crews were wrapping up a final workday when Mitchel returned.
“There were two large semi-trucks parked in front of my home,” Mitchel told The Sentinel, recalling what he saw when he returned home last month. “I immediately noticed the new roof, and all the outside work had been done. It was overwhelming.”
Along with a new roof, fresh attic insulation had been added, damaged interior ceilings had been replaced, new wood laminate flooring had been laid, and two bathrooms were gutted and in the process of complete renovation.
Anderson said the remodeling of each of the home’s two bathrooms by Kitchen Mart, which includes new sheetrock and tile, are still in process. The master bathroom will receive a new shower stall and toilet fixtures, he said.
Mitchel said he’s delighted to be home, but admits has challenges ahead.
“I’m on a fixed income because of federal SSI, and had no success trying to refinance my mortgage, which I can barely afford,” he said. “I’ve never missed a mortgage payment in over 20 years.”
He hopes to stay in his house and is in conversation with city officials, including Anderson, about his available options.
Anderson said the home has a considerable amount of equity built up, and now that its condition has been cleared by the city he said Mitchel should have a better chance at applying for refinancing.
The Sacramento Valley Association of Building Officials, of which Anderson served as president in 2018, focuses its efforts on improving building safety through educating building officials and standardizing processes in the region. Additionally, the association’s outreach committee helps plan and coordinate charitable projects each year.
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