John Fena and Edwin Schumacher bought their north Minneapolis home nearly 11 years ago, almost at the height of the housing market. Despite the fact the house is worth way less now than the 2006 purchase price, the couple has been serious noodling on whether to sell and abscond.
The house next door is the bane to their quality of life.
Joseph Oladipo bought the Emerson Avenue North property in 2004 for a song. It's mostly been a Section 8 rental ever since.
"We have…invested heavily in our and other neighborhoods in North with our time, energy, blood, sweat, tears, and money," Fena tells City Pages. "We are tired. We don't have the energy to fight this battle anymore. We are utterly spent."
For good reason.
According to Minneapolis Police records, officers have been dispatched to Oladipo's rental 35 times between March 2012 and February 2016. Among the reasons: a "high risk" arrest warrant, shots fired, two fights, and drug activity.
2015 was a banner year when SWAT teams twice raided the house, according to Fena.
"We've [also] been threatened with derogatory slurs, faggot, etc., many times over the years by different tenants at the property," he continues. "…We've been accused of killing pets, had beaten tenants show up at our house on Christmas, had drunk and/or drug-induced tenants show up at our house threatening us. We had one of our dogs, a nine-month-old puppy, ripped apart by two pit bulls in our backyard by either visitors or trespassers to 1411 Emerson."
When the couple tried to approach Oladipo at neighborhood meetings, he accused them of dropping the N-bomb, he says. When they last reached out to Minneapolis City Council Member Blong Yang, who represents the ward, they received no response, according to Fena. The couple has reported the problems to no less than a half dozen city of Minneapolis offices, including the Problem Properties Unit.
"Minneapolis does not have the tools, or maybe it lacks the competency or balls," Fena says. "Every department is quick to refer to other authorities.…There is no accountability, and these slumlords know it. Slumlords do not have to be accountable."
The latest chapter highlights what the neighborhood is up against.
All has been relatively quiet on Emerson since a fire gutted Olapido's rental in late 2015. But that disaster has ushered in a new set problems. Three open building permits exist for the renovation of the property, the oldest of which is 19 months. Yet minimal progress has been made in improving the building, according to neighbors, and it sits in construction zone purgatory.
Fena emailed Bryan Starry at the Problem Properties Unit earlier this year.
"As long as the owner continues to make progress and has his necessary permit inspections," replied Starry, "there is no issue."
The work is "not" ongoing, Fena fired back. He and Schumacher want the city to pull Oladipo's landlord permit or pull the plug on the so-called rehab. None of which is happening. And so the property sits.
"[Oladipo] knows how to work the system," says Fena. "He knows Minneapolis is a pushover for slumlords. [We] have [even] been offering to purchase his property since 2011. He wants $250,000 for the dump."
The neighbors know they're damned either way: an eternally unfinished construction site that's prime material for nefarious activities, or a livable structure that will be inhabited by renters who don't give a damn.
Fena and his husband and other neighbors wish Oladipo would go away.
"We love our home, and our neighborhood, but our quality — or lack thereof — of life has started to deeply affect us, and our fears of what the next 10 years will bring make us want to get out before we get in any deeper.…We don't have the energy anymore to battle our expert slumlord next door."
Oladipo didn't respond to repeated phone messages. He also did not reply to written messages to his "joedman" email account.
Repeated messages left for Starry and Ken Staloch in the Community Planning and Economic Development Department went unreturned. Council Member Yang deferred comments to city spokesperson Casper Hill.
"It’s our understanding that it’s undergoing renovations," he says. "The property owner is currently in the Vacant Building Registration program. The owner has obtained the necessary permits through the city and is making progress."
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