Orlando Guzman describes the house next to his on 5th Avenue as "a dump.''
When he learned the city will target that abandoned building and other deteriorated homes for cleanup and repairs, Guzman said that is the right move.
"I hope that they can just get them occupied," he said.
Mayor James Fiorentini has launched a campaign to find receivers for two dozen properties across the city, for the purpose of renovating them so they look presentable and don't hurt the values of neighboring homes.
The house at 69 5th Ave. in the Acre neighborhood had to be boarded up for safety reasons after the owner abandoned the property. Fiorentini and city Inspector Tom Mullen took a tour of that and other properties last week.
Fiorentini made the 5th Avenue building the featured property during the sweep.
"I first noticed this property while I was campaigning door to door in the fall," the mayor said. "This is what all the neighbors were complaining about. They didn't want to talk to me about street sweeping. They didn't want to talk to me about taxes. They didn't even want to talk to me about the Hunking School. They came out of the houses to talk about (abandoned properties.)"
The property has become a dumping ground for trash. Animals have ripped through bags of trash left in the yard. On the front lawn lies an old television, broken into several pieces. Guzman said the property has been abandoned for at least a year.
The city has included 25 properties in the sweep operation. About 90 percent of them are owned by out-of-state banks.
"A common problem is that people don't want the property anymore, so they give it to a bank," Fiorentini said. "The banks transfer it around from bank to bank and don't take any responsibility."
In addition to the house on 5th Avenue, Fiorentini said properties are targeted on 6th Avenue, Franklin Street, Washington Street, Primrose Street and Harrison Street, among others. Fiorentini, in collaboration with Attorney General Martha Coakley, will solicit the Housing Court to officially appoint receivers to the properties. A receiver is allowed to access the property to renovate it to state codes and standards. The Housing Court then requires that the owner of the property reimburses the receiver for their work or the property is awarded to the receiver.
Fiorentini said he hopes the program will also help decrease crime. He cited the popular "broken window theory,'' which says a well-maintained neighborhood can prevent vandalism, and the less vandalism an area has translates to fewer serious crimes.
The buildings being targeted by the city are not only eyesores. They can also hurt the values of neighboring homes.
"If one of these properties is near (an abandoned property), that value will suffer from what we call external impact," said Frank Novak, owner of Novak Finer Homes real estate company. "It affects their value negatively and there is nothing the homeowner can do about it. It suffers in sales, too. People take a look at your property. If everything is not proper in that location, buyers may move on and a property then can become tougher to sell."
City Councilor Sven Amirian said he likes the idea of the receivership program, but cautioned about the amount of renovations that will be done to the properties.
"They need to be renovated in a way that is affordable to maintain," said Amirian, who works in real estate. "A lot of the trouble with the mortgage crisis was that people got into houses that they couldn't afford."
Fiorentini said that the city has attempted to call the owner of 69 5th Ave. to court several times, but the owner has failed to show up. The attorney general's office issued a demand letter to the owner, stating that the owner must respond within seven days or the court will appoint a receiver to the property.
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