For Immediate Release - January 25, 2016

AG Healey Announces Expansion of Abandoned Housing Initiative

Highlights Growth of Program as Next Phase of Addressing Impact of Foreclosure Crisis

BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey today announced the expansion of her Abandoned Housing Initiative (AHI), which helps cities and towns to address the lasting impacts of the foreclosure crisis by rehabilitating abandoned properties to reduce blight and crime, enhance public safety, increase property values, and overall improve neighborhoods and communities.

“In the wake of the foreclosure crisis, the rehabilitation of abandoned properties is the next important phase of our recovery for families and our communities,” AG Healey said. “Abandoned properties are public safety hazards, reduce property values, and hinder economic development. That is why we continue to see so many local communities taking advantage of this program to rehabilitate properties and revitalize neighborhoods across Massachusetts.”

Recently, AG Healey’s Office has seen an increase in the number of cities and towns seeking assistance to reduce blight and revitalize their neighborhoods through the rehabilitation of distressed and abandoned properties.

Since October 2014, the AG’s Office has increased funding and expanded AHI into 32 new municipalities across the state. The program now covers 88 cities and towns in Massachusetts, a growth of 57 percent. Currently, there are 357 active abandoned properties in the program. Last month, $2.5 million was dedicated to continue to fund this expanded program across the state.

Map of AHI Expansion between October 2014 and January 2016

Map of Expansion between October 2014 and January 2016

“The Abandoned Housing Initiative has been a productive partnership in Weymouth’s effort to address blight and revitalize our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Robert L. Hedlund. “Since the town of Weymouth began working with Attorney General’s office in April of 2014, Weymouth has seen a steady decline in the number of vacant and abandoned homes within the community, resulting in enhanced public safety in our neighborhoods. I congratulate our Health Department and our Environmental Health Officer, Matthew Brennan, for the effective efforts in working with the AG’s office to resolve long standing state sanitary code violations that go un-corrected by property owners. I am excited to hear that the program is expanding and look forward to our continued partnership in the future.”

“This initiative has been a tremendous addition to our code enforcement efforts,” said Framingham Building Commissioner Michael A. Tusino. “The AG’s staff is professional, knowledgeable, and can gain compliance when we, as town officials, cannot obtain results with absentee owners and financial institutions. The program flows so well, it seems like an extension of our department.”

“We are pleased that AG Healey is continuing the AHI Receivership Fund, which allows receivers, with court approval, to obtain funds to rehabilitate abandoned properties,” said Helen Zucco, Executive Director at Chelsea Restoration Corporation. “This program gives banks an incentive to approve construction loans, allows funds to be loaned to receivers at very low interest, and creates a streamlined process for receivers to obtain the funds they need to achieve their important role in this process.”

Utilizing funds recovered through the nationwide state-federal settlement over unlawful foreclosures, AHI continues to assist local communities in mitigating the impacts of the foreclosure crisis. The goal of funding through this program is to increase the capacity of receivers to finance the rehabilitation of abandoned properties throughout the state. 

The AG’s AHI program employs the State Sanitary Code to seek out delinquent owners of distressed and abandoned residential properties and to have them bring those homes back into code compliance. If an owner refuses, Assistant Attorneys General within AHI can petition the Court to appoint a receiver to complete the needed repairs, with a lien placed on the home for the value of the work. The receiver is then compensated when the property is sold.   

            For more information on the AG’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, click here.