City Makes First Anti-Blight Foreclosure
by Thomas MacMillan | Jun 11, 2012 5:03 pm
After an absentee landlord let a Clay Street home fester for years as a crack house, the property has been taken over by a local new landlord—the city.
In a move that is the first of its kind in the state, the city has used a new municipal law to foreclose on a property at 129 Clay St., which has been abandoned and blighted since 2003.
City officials announced that news on Monday on Clay Street, outside a boarded up 129 Clay St.
The foreclosure is the first to result from a 2009 city law that gave the city more weapons to go after landlords of blighted properties. The 2009 law, spearheaded by then-Aldermen Joey Rodriguez (pictured) and Roland Lemar, allows the city to aggressively fine property owners and put liens on their properties if those fines are unpaid.
The law allows the city eventually—in extreme circumstances—to foreclose on problem properties, which is what happened at 129 Clay St.
The city will put out a Request For Proposals from developers or housing agencies that would want to rehabilitate the property into owner-occupied housing.
“Please tear it down!” called out a passerby before the 11 a.m. press conference began. It was William Briscoe (pictured), a maintenance man for 127 Clay St. He said 129 Clay has been an eyesore and a nose-sore for years.
“This has become the dump. The town dump,” he said. “I mean the smell is overpowering.”
He said the place has for years been a home for squatters and a dumping ground for all kinds of trash.
Laurie Lopez, Fair Haven specialist for the Livable City Initiative, said the property has been a “resource puller” since 2003, when it was first abandoned.
“I was here on a daily or basis or every other day,” Lopez said. “It was a crack house.” She said she was constantly calling the cops to deal with problems at the house, from drug use to prostitution. Homeless people lived on the porch until the city condemned it and tore it off the front of the house, she said.
The landlord never responded to requests and demands for action, she said. Except once: He finally boarded the place up several years ago.
The owner, Stanley Hill, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Mayor John DeStefano spoke at the press conference with former Alderman Rodriguez, State Sen. Martin Looney (pictured), and LCI head Erik Johnson. He said assuming ownership of a problem property is not the city’s first choice. “The goal is to get landlords to be responsible.”
Johnson said this may be the first of more anti-blight foreclosures to come.
After the press conference, Mayor DeStefano took a peak at a nearby garden run by New Haven Farms, the urban agriculture organization that now has five locations in the city.
New Haven Farms head Rebecca Kline (at right in photo) walked with the mayor to the corner of Shelter and Clay, where the mayor peered over the fence at young tomato and squash plants and grilled Kline on her organization’s work.
Produce from the farms goes to local people living near to the federal poverty level who have or are at risk of diabetes, Kline explained. The city has contributed three of the five lots the organization now cultivates, she said.
As Kline and the mayor spoke, workers from the Regional Water Authority were installing a new water tap to provide the garden with irrigation. Kline said the authority donated that service at three locations
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