For Immediate Release - November 01, 2011

AG Coakley, Local Officials Tour Rehabbed Abandoned Property in Holyoke

HOLYOKE — Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley met with local officials and toured a property in Holyoke that was rehabilitated under the Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative.  The two-family property previously posed a significant threat to public health and safety. 

“Just months ago, this abandoned property was a public safety hazard and an eyesore in the neighborhood,” said Attorney General Coakley.  “Now, as a result of the collaboration between the City of Holyoke and our office’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, this property has become a home for two families.  We will continue to work with communities across the Commonwealth to address the detrimental effects of the foreclosure crisis through this initiative.”

During the visit, AG Coakley toured the completed rehabilitated property located at 1031 Dwight Street in Holyoke.  AG Coakley was joined by Holyoke Mayor Elaine Pluta and other local officials, and led on the tour by Anthony Witman, President and Founder of Witman Properties, Inc., the receiver of the property.  The receiver was appointed by the court and given authority to take appropriate actions to bring the property back up to code.  This property will be the second completed receivership project on Dwight Street and the twelfth receivership case in Holyoke since 2009.  The other successfully completed receivership property in the neighborhood is an occupied three-family home located at 1215 Dwight Street. 

In April 2009, the City of Holyoke indentified a number of problem properties that they were interested in targeting for receivership, and 1031 Dwight Street was identified as a top priority.  The Holyoke Board of Health first inspected the property in April 2009, finding the property vacant and unfit for habitation under the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code.   In May of 2010, after notifying the titleholders about the condition of the property, the AG’s Office filed a petition in Western Division Housing Court to enforce the state sanitary code and for the appointment of a receiver.  Through a partnership with the City of Holyoke and the Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, the AG’s Office used the receivership statute to have a court-appointed receiver oversee the renovation of the property.  In June 2010, Western Division Housing Court appointed Witman Properties, Inc., a general contractor and property management company in the Pioneer Valley, as the receiver of the property.  The rehabilitation of the property was completed in August 2011 and both units have been rented. 

Abandoned properties impact communities in many ways. They are often public safety threats and the blighted properties degrade property values of neighboring homes. These properties are also a tax burden for towns as the communities no longer receive tax revenue for the properties.

During the last few years, AG Coakley’s Office has seen an uptick in reports of abandoned properties.   In 2009, the Attorney General’s Office expanded the Abandoned Housing Initiative and currently has 119 active abandoned properties in the program.  Since the program expansion, seven receiverships have been completed and 55 cases have been closed after properties were repaired and brought up to code by the owners in response to pressure from the AG’s Office.  In addition to Holyoke, the AG’s Office currently has pending and active cases in 23 communities in the Commonwealth, including Worcester, Revere, Randolph, New Bedford, Lawrence, Saugus, Brockton, Pittsfield and Fall River.

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