For Immediate Release - July 12, 2012

AG Coakley, Mayor Flanagan, and Local Officials Tour Rehabbed Abandoned Property in Fall River

Also Joined by the Receiver of Property

FALL RIVER — Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Fall River Mayor William Flanagan met with local officials and toured a property in Fall River 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. 

“This abandoned property was formerly a blight to the neighborhood and a threat to public safety,” said AG Coakley.  “As a result of a partnership between the City of Fall River and our Abandoned Housing Initiative, this property has been rehabilitated and can soon become a home. We will continue to work with the City and local receivers to make projects like this possible.”

“Improving the quality of life for everyone who lives, works, and visits our great city has been the bedrock of my administration,” said Fall River Mayor William Flanagan.  “Through the Building Blocks initiative and with the assistance of the Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office we are doing our best to address the issue of abandoned property throughout our neighborhoods, reducing the burden placed on municipal services and revitalizing our neighborhoods, street-by street, block-by-block and neighborhood-by-neighborhood.”

During the visit, AG Coakley and Fall River Mayor Flanagan toured the nearly completed rehabilitated property located at 335-337 Peckham Street in Fall River. AG Coakley and Mayor Flanagan were joined by local officials, and led on the tour by Ed Allard, Project Director of Community Action for Better Housing (CABH) and the receiver of the property.  A receiver is appointed by the court and given authority to take appropriate actions to bring the property back up to code. Through the AG’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, the AG’s Office has worked with 27 properties in Fall River. This is the first property for which a receiver has been appointed and in six other cases, the possibility of receivership has prompted either the owners or the banks to repair their properties.

In 2011, the City of Fall River identified a number of problem properties that they were interested in targeting for receivership, and 335-337 Peckham Street was identified as a top priority. Fall River officials first inspected the property, finding it vacant and unfit for habitation under the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code. In March of 2011, 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 Fall River Housing Court to enforce the state sanitary code and for the appointment of a receiver. Through a partnership between the City of Fall River’s Building Blocks initiative 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 April 2012, the Fall River Housing Court appointed Community Action for Better Housing (CABH), a nonprofit that delivers housing services, as the receiver of the property. The rehabilitation of this property is nearly complete and soon it will be back in full compliance with the state sanitary code.

The AG’s Abandoned Housing Initiative team works closely with City of Fall River’s Building Blocks initiative. Building Blocks includes city employees from the Fall River Mayor’s Office, Legal Department, Building Department, Minimum Housing Department, Inspectional Services, Police Department, and Fire Department. They work together to identify and inspect dangerous abandoned homes, document all code violations, and attempt to work with property owners and lenders to resolve those code violations. Additionally, over the course of the last two years, Fall River Mayor Flanagan and his Administration have worked closely with local neighborhood associations to address quality of life issues that affect those who live, work, and visit the City. Through Building Blocks, residents and businesses of each neighborhood in the City of Fall River shape and drive municipal policy in their neighborhood.

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 255 active abandoned properties in the program. Since the program expansion, receivers have been assigned in 36 of the cases and 130 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 48 of the cases, a settlement has been reached with the identified owner and repairs are currently underway. The remaining 171 cases are in some form of litigation.  Including Fall River, the AG’s Office currently has pending and active cases in 29 communities in the Commonwealth, including New Bedford, Worcester, Revere, Randolph, Holyoke, Saugus, Brockton, and Pittsfield. 

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