More than a dozen people displaced after Lancaster row homes deemed unsafe

LANCASTER, Pa. --- On Thursday, city code enforcement officials inspected a home on the 500 block of North Plum Street.

After finding structural concerns inside, including one property sinking seven inches, city officials say they checked properties surrounding the home in question.

Officials decided the best course of action was to condemn the seven buildings, ranging from 523-535 North Plum Street, deeming them unsafe to live inside.

City officials say 17 people are now displaced following the "immediate" condemnation of the buildings.

One of those people is Nahjera Polanco, who said she was "shocked" and "surprised" by the quick change of events.

She said they had to get their belongings out by 5 p.m. Thursday and were not allowed back inside Friday unless a city official was present.

She explained they she and others living in the connected row homes were offered a hotel room to stay through Monday before being placed on a housing wait-list.

Polanco said her family of four is trying to figure out where to live next.

“We’re at my fiancé’s grandparents in Lancaster City still. Just looking to find another place. We don’t plan on moving back here. Just given the situation, we just figure it would be best to find somewhere new and start over," said Polanco.

City officials say they are paying for some of the expenses with a private fund aimed at preventing people from experience homelessness.

Jocelyn Diaz, 36, lives in one of the connected row buildings, but her building wasn't condemned.

She called the situation "really sad" when she came home Thursday and saw families packing up to leave.

Diaz said she would want to know about the situation for safety reasons but believes the landlords and city are at fault.

She said it's "not something that happened overnight" and believes the property owners and city "could've done something about it before it got to this point," saying the property in question was cited without follow-up.

Josue Rodriguez, 15, lives across the street from the condemned row of buildings.

He said he hopes people who were displaced can land on their feet.

“They could’ve, at least, had a little bit more of a warning before it but, at the same time, you have to understand that they’re trying to have safety because if it does collapse, people could’ve gotten hurt and it did have to rush it, just in case…Hopefully, they can come back,” said Rodriguez.

City officials say structural engineers were on-scene Friday to evaluate the source of the problem.

They say they're trying to figure out how property owners can address the problem.

There is no timetable for a solution to the condemned buildings and city officials say they plan to follow up next week.

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