For Immediate Release - April 19, 2012

AG Coakley, Local and State Officials Tour Rehabbed Abandoned Property in New Bedford

Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Neighborhood Stabilization Funds for New Bedford

NEW BEDFORD — Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Department of Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein met with local officials and toured a property in New Bedford 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.  Undersecretary Gornstein then announced funding to assist in the redevelopment of another abandoned multifamily property in the South Central neighborhood which will also be renovated in conjunction with the AG’s Initiative.

“Just months ago, this abandoned property was a blight to the neighborhood, its yard overgrown and filled with trash and its exterior marked with graffiti,” said AG Coakley.  “Now, as a result of the collaboration between the City of New Bedford and our office’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, this property is no longer an eyesore or threat to public safety and it can become a home for two families.  We look forward to continue working with the City, state agencies, and local receivers to address the detrimental effects of the foreclosure crisis through this initiative.”

“This rehabilitation project is a great example of what can happen when state and local governments work together to help our communities grow,” said Undersecretary Gornstein. “The Patrick-Murray Administration, through initiatives like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, has helped communities continue to grow and develop economically, while helping support those citizens of the Commonwealth most in need by providing affordable and safe housing.”

During the visit, AG Coakley and Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein toured the completed rehabilitated property located at 205 Summer Street in New Bedford.  AG Coakley and Undersecretary Gornstein were joined by New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and other local officials, and led on the tour by Michael Galasso, Program Manager of The Resource Inc. and the receiver of the property.  The receiver is 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 case in New Bedford.  Through the Abandoned Housing Initiative, the AG’s Office has worked with 25 properties in New Bedford.  Of those 25, four have had a receiver appointed.  In other cases, the possibility of receivership has prompted either the owners or the banks to repair their properties.

After the tour, Department of Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein announced a new grant to help redevelop another abandoned property in the South Central neighborhood.  This property, located at 245 Purchase Street, is also one that is being rehabilitated under the AG’s Abandoned Housing Initiative.  The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is a grant program to support neighborhood stabilization and redevelopment to help transform foreclosed and vacant properties in six Massachusetts communities: Fall River, Attleboro, Boston, Brockton, Lawrence and New Bedford.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded more than $6 million in NSP3 funds through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act in 2010 and is implemented in Massachusetts by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

In 2010, the City of New Bedford identified a number of problem properties that they were interested in targeting for receivership, and 205 Summer Street was identified as a top priority.  The New Bedford Department of Inspectional Services first inspected the property, finding the property vacant and unfit for habitation under the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code.  In June of 2010, the City contacted the AG’s Office about the health and safety code violations at the property.  After notifying the titleholders about the condition of the property, the AG’s Office filed a petition in Southeast Housing Court to enforce the state sanitary code and for the appointment of a receiver.  Through a partnership with the City of New Bedford 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 2011, the Southeast Housing Court appointed The Resource Inc., a community and economic development organization serving southeastern Massachusetts, as the receiver of the property.  The rehabilitation of this property is nearly complete and soon the receiver will seek court approval to collaborate with the City’s Office of Housing and Community Development and sell the property through a lottery process to an income eligible first-time homebuyer.  The ultimate goal is to achieve stable, long-term owner-occupied homeownership.

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 198 active abandoned properties in the program.  Since the program expansion, 14 receiverships have been completed and 85 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.  Another 16 properties are in some stage of receivership through the Abandoned Housing Initiative.   In addition to New Bedford, the AG’s Office currently has pending and active cases in 29 communities in the Commonwealth, including Worcester, Revere, Randolph, Holyoke, Saugus, Brockton, Pittsfield and Fall River.

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