Attorney General Releases Report on Rehabilitation of Abandoned Massachusetts Properties

The following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE.

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BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, April 16, released a report from her office’s Abandoned Housing Initiative (AHI), a statewide program created to help cities and towns rehabilitate abandoned houses in their communities.

According to the report, the Initiative has expanded to 140 cities and towns across the state, adding 88 partnerships with cities and towns since 2014, a 150 percent increase in the number of municipalities engaged with the program.

Between 2017 and 2018, the Initative efforts led to 364 successful results, including properties repaired through receivership or by property owners. Those efforts also returned nearly $1 million in unpaid property taxes to Massachusetts cities and towns.

“Through this program, we’ve worked successfully with cities and towns to transform vacant properties into new homes for Massachusetts families,” said AG Healey. “Over the past two years, we’ve built new partnerships and expanded the resources available through our office to rehab more properties than ever before.”   

            “The Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Project has been an excellent partner in improving quality of life in cities, and their most recent projects in New Bedford have exemplified this by investing in historic properties in our neighborhoods, such as the Howland House,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “I want to thank Attorney General Maura Healey and her office, as well as their partners on these projects, for their commitment to make these transformations possible. New Bedford looks forward to continuing to work with the AG’s Office on projects that target distressed properties and improve our neighborhoods.”

“Chelsea Restoration Corporation has been fortunate to work with the Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative Receivership Fund,” said Chelsea Restoration Corporation Executive Director Helen Zucco. “The fund helps provide critical financial support for receivership projects that might not otherwise move forward and turn vacant, blighted properties into renewed, habitable homes for Massachusetts residents.”

The report also highlights the successes of the AHI Receivership Fund, created in 2013 with funds from the national mortgage settlement to serve as a revolving loan fund for receivers who need help financing repairs to houses.

The fund was renewed in 2018 with $1.25 million in funding. Since 2013, the fund has financed $7.8 million in property rehabilitation efforts to repair 88 severely blighted homes, bringing a total of 181 housing units back on the market that would have otherwise remained uninhabitable. In New Bedford, the fund helped support the renovation of the historic Howland House with an $111,000 loan and a $15,000 grant. The home, which sat vacant for several years following a fire in 2005, opened in late 2017 with eight new apartments, five of which are designated affordable.

In 2018, the AG’s Office also committed $250,000 to continue AHI’s Strategic Demolition Fund, a program that makes funding available for abandoned properties that are not viable for receivership or rehabilitation. In Holyoke, a community development corporation called Way Finders received a $50,000 grant through the Strategic Demolition Fund to assist with the development of Library Commons in the city’s downtown. Way Finders used the grant to demolish two vacant buildings to make way for a housing development with 47 apartments, including 39 affordable units.

AHI was created in 1995 to address abandoned properties in Boston and Springfield and expanded in 2009 after the foreclosure crisis led to a dramatic increase in the number of abandoned properties statewide.

Through AHI, the AG’s Office uses its enforcement authority and works closely with municipal governments to identify and turn around blighted, vacant, and abandoned homes. AHI attorneys encourage abandoned property owners to repair their homes and make them habitable once again. If owners cannot make the necessary repairs or refuse, AHI attorneys can ask a court to appoint a receiver—a person or organization—to bring the property back up to code. The receiver pays for the costs of the repairs, which can be recovered at the end of the receivership either from the property owner or through a public auction of the house.

For more information about AHI helps communities or to learn how to get involved with the program, contact us atabandonedhousing@mass.gov or call 617-727-2200.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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