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Arson Prevention Programs: A Sampling of Approaches

by Robert A. Corry

This section of the interFIRE VR Resource File offers the fire/arson investigator some prevention ideas on how communities across American have used innovation to help resolve underlying factors to their local arson problem.

Click on the section to review the programs listed.

1. Property Management

  • Little Rock, Arkansas - Plan to speed handling of condemned buildings
  • New York City--Insurance Industry Abandoned Building Anti-Arson Program
  • Boston, Massachusetts "Project Pride"--A community based organization takes on drug buildings
  • Frederick, Maryland--Mayor's Plan Tackles Blighted Properties
  • New Haven, Connecticut - $2.4 million grant goes to Yale University for New Haven neighborhood
  • Boston, Massachusetts - City Gets $60 Million for low cost housing
  • New York City--Not-for-Profit Developers
  • United States Tourism promoters bank on America's Industrial past.

2. Public-Private Partnerships

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania--In some cities rehabilitating neighborhoods and creating jobs are linked.
  • Lawrence, Massachusetts - Volunteers Rehab Vacant Property; Habitat for Humanity Program
  • Nashua, New Hampshire - Habitat for Humanities needs volunteers
  • Lowell, Massachusetts - A multi-phase control program for blighted buildings
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Insurance Company Gets Directly Involved in a Blighted Neighborhood
  • Boston, Massachusetts--Bringing Back Blue Hill Avenue (Ghetto Revitalization)
  • Los Angeles, California - Lemons into Lemonade
  • East Boston, Massachusetts--A Community Revitalization Program
  • Jersey City, New Jersey - Using a computer to control crime in a blighted neighborhood
  • Holyoke, Massachusetts - Grants to fight crime
  • New York City - Private Sector Corporations Help Rehabilitate Blighted Properties in Exchange for a Federal Tax Break
  • Lawrence, Massachusetts--Public/Private Cooperation. Community Needs Housing Creativity, Patience (Editorial) Christine McKenna
  • Waltham, Massachusetts--Downtown Revitalization
  • Boston, Massachusetts - Managing City Government

3. Jobs

  • Boston, Massachusetts--Youthbuild Program
  • Utica, New York - Master Building Crafts Skills Training Program
  • Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts--Youth in Construction
  • Boston, Massachusetts--Inmates Seal Abandoned Buildings & Improve Neighborhoods
  • Suffolk County, Massachusetts--Sheriff Rufo shows off his "Big House"

4. Use of the Civil Law to Control Blight

  • Framingham, Massachusetts - An Innovative Building Commissioner fights Crime and Blight

5. Massachusetts Attorney General Initiatives

  • Abandoned Housing Recovery Project
  • "Operation Take Back"


1. Property Management

Little Rock, Arkansas - Plan to speed handling of condemned buildings

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When this fails staff decisions are made and a municipal ordinance is executed making the building "Condemned".

A letter is written immediately giving the owner four compliance options to select from in 20 days. Provisions are in the law for absentee landlords. The options are:

  • The owner can repair the building by a certain date and provide an affidavit to the city of such intent.
  • The owner can raze the building on his own and clean up the lot, providing an affidavit is given to the city that this will be done by a certain date.
  • The owner can give the building and the lot to the city to determine handling of the building.
  • The owner can executive an agreement, authorizing the city to raze the building and attach a lien to the property to recover the costs.

If these options fail, a warrant is issued and the owner has thirty days to deal with the condemned building.

If this fails, the case is turned over to the municipal court that takes sixty days to act on the case. According to the article, the city attorney said this system was a fantastic success. No warrants were issued and the large backlog of condemned buildings was cleared up in twelve months.

Source: The Building Official and Code Administrator Magazine. March/April 1986. P. 38

New York City--Insurance Industry Abandoned Building Anti-Arson Program

In tough neighborhoods such as Harlem and Brooklyn, buildings at-risk were being secured with masonry block and heavy-gauge sheet metal protecting windows and doors.

The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) realized that the stepped up seal program could help many small contracting and construction firms acquire skills for the work and at the same time learn to bid on public projects. Capital to pay contractors was available through federal Community Development Act funds.

Eligibility rules for contractors were specific. A candidate had to have at least ten years experience in construction or rehabilitation, with at least two years of work in brick masonry. Those with more than $10,000 in working capital were considered ineligible since capital accumulation by under-financed contractors was considered one of the program's goals. As employers, applicants had to be able to obtain federal tax numbers and provide adequate insurance coverage for their crews. Finally, they had to certify that they weööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööt administrative control ñ in the targeting of the buildings, in the selection and training of the contractors, and in the continuous monitoring of the work. AIA Executive Vice President Lawrence M. Zippen said, "We haven't lost track of a single dollar and everybody won."

The 6,000 buildings selected by the HPD and the Strike Force fell into two categories; first, about half had been taken for taxes and were owned out-right by the city. The rest, privately held, had been declared "Vacant, Open, and Unguarded" for which court orders can be obtained for sealing or demolition when owners ignore repeated summonses. Neither the HPD nor the Arson Strike Force has any record of a fire--deliberate or otherwise--in a building sealed in the course of this program.

The New York City Mayor's Office number is (212) 788-9600.

Source: The Fire Journal, September 1983

Boston, Massachusetts "Project Pride"--A community based organization takes on drug buildings

The people who had lived in the building were drug dealers and junkies who terrorized their neighbors, turning this Roxbury (Mass) rooming house into a kind of Amityville Horror, police said. Last week after one of the squatters had tried to burn the place down rather than leave it by being forced out, a swarm of city agencies did its own kind of exorcism, clearing the house and boarding it up.

The building became the 206th vacant or illegally occupied building to be taken over by the city through Project Pride, a multi-agency program that began three years ago. Under the program that received $325,000 directly from the city as many as ten agencies cooperate to target abandoned buildings that residents say have become havens for drug dealers or squatters. John Eade, Boston Inspectional Services Department Commissioner, is knowledgeable about the program. The telephone number for Boston City Hall connecting all departments is (617) 635-4000.

A synopsis of program features:

  • Prison inmates are employed to board the buildings and to paint the plywood panels depicting colorful window scenes that have become the project's trademark in scarred neighborhoods.
  • National guard troops train the inmates and provide equipment for boarding.
  • Private companies donate some of the wood and paint.
  • Renovations are funded by roughly $2 million of a federal block grant that is threatened by proposed cuts in national housing programs in Washington.

As many as 100 privately owned homes have also been renovated by landlords who feared losing them to the city. Project coordinators have hosted tours for officials from cities as far away as Oslo, Norway. Anthony Ficarra, Code Enforcement Director in Syracuse, N.Y. visited the program.

Source: Boston Globe, March 19, 1995, p. 1 (3rd section)

Frederick, Maryland--Mayor's Plan Tackles Blighted Properties

A quiet cheer erupted from Frederick's Board of Alderman when Mayor Jim Grimes asked them to support "Demolition by Neglect" legislation next year.

The mayor said, "As I walk the streets everyday I see the number of buildings that need to be addressed. We are not getting cooperation from the building owners to do anything. The city needs some mechanism to force these people to bring their property up to par to protect the values of other buildings. There are buildings that have been boarded up for the past twenty years since the flood. There is no excuse for this!"

City Planning Director, James Schmersahl also believes the law is needed. He recommended inviting Hagerstown (PA) officials into Frederick (Maryland) to share their Demolition by Neglect law and what it takes to get one. The Frederick Mayor's Office telephone number is (301) 635-4000.

Source: The Frederick (Maryland) Post, September 13, 1996, p.1

New Haven, Connecticut - $2.4 million grant goes to Yale University for New Haven neighborhood

U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros announced a $2.4 million grant to Yale University for a "town-gown" partnership that he predicted would become a "beacon for the country." Yale was one of five universities nationwide that received grants to benefit their home cities.

The three year grant will be used to revitalized New Haven's Dwight neighborhood, a blighted high-crime area just northwest of the campus where fewer than 20% of the houses are occupied by owners. During the past five years the neighborhood has experienced a steady dwindling of small businesses and residences. Many of the abandoned buildings have been vandalized and vacant lots are filled with litter.

The grant will provide a variety of programs including

  • Renovation of buildings and the Dwight Elementary School.
  • Help for local citizens with job training and job placement.
  • Loans for small businesses.
  • Increased neighborhood security.

With the help of Yale, the city and local bank-backed projects and other partners, more than $6 million will be put toward the effort to improve the Dwight neighborhood, in addition to the HUD grant. The New Haven Mayor's Office telephone number is (203) 946-7700.

Source: The Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican Newspaper, (unknown date)

Boston, Massachusetts - City Gets $60 Million for low cost housing

The city is to receive $60 million private grant to build 1,500 units of affordable housing over the next five years. The funds are Boston's share of a 1.8 billion national program funded by the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISI), a New York based nonprofit firm that draws its funds principally from corporate and private donations. Nine other cities, including New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and the State of California will receive funding.

Boston's funding will be channeled through community development program in neighborhoods.

A new, permanent tax credit for building low-income housing has made it easier for groups such as the Local Initiative Support Corporation to raise money for such projects. Paul Grogan is the executive director of the Local Initiative Support Corporation. The Boston City Hall telephone number connecting all departments is (617) 635-4000.

Source: The Boston Globe, December 15, 1993, p.33

New York City--Not-for-Profit Developers

The city wisely avoided the high-rise, high-density model for public housing and turned instead to small-scale building and re-habilitation projects, often carried out by not-for-profit developers spawned by local church and community groups. These developers handled everything from construction to teaching first-time homebuyers to apply for mortgages in communities that the banks too, had abandoned.

Mayor Edward Koch's administration rebuilt 50,000 new houses and apartments. This program is a reminder that public-private partnerships have a strong role to play in the lives of cities and citizens. The present housing commissioner, Deborah C. Wright, has plans for building on top of the previous administration's success. The Mayor's Office number is (212) 788-9600.

Source: The New York Times, May 2, 1995 p.20

United States Tourism promoters bank on America's Industrial past.

Since the 1980's the U.S. Congress has created six national heritage areas that celebrate--and promote--a region's past and the story of its settlement. Another one hundred are under consideration, about one-third of which are focused on industrial and labor heritage in particular, said Alan Turnbull, outdoor recreational planner for the National Park Service.

Some regional programs to take advantage of historical/industrial significance:

Pawtucket, Rhode Island: A boat tour down the Blackstone River to commemorate the origins of the American Industrial Revolution in this area. The narrator, an historian, describes the mills, factory houses and church spires along the shoreline. In two years the boat rides have drawn 42,000 patrons. In 1995 a evening dinner ride was added that sold out.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: An effort is underway to create tours through the huge but vacant steel mills remaining in the area and have a narrator describe their history.

Coplay, Pennslyvania: Visitors tour the only restored industrial site ñ nine Stonehenge-like kilns in all ñ dedicated to the cement industry.

Gary, Indiana: Tours through steel mills with an historical narration of the community's melting pot origins.

2. Public Private Partnerships

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania--In some cities rehabilitating neighborhoods and creating jobs are linked.

Chicago, Illinois--"Homan Square," a part of the "New Homes for Chicago" program, is on the site of the old Sears, Roebucks & Company headquarters. The master plan calls for 600 affordable units for sale or rent to be built by the end of the decade. The project, in which Sears is a partner, will be given to businesses and employers that will create jobs for local residents. Existing training programs will be used to prepare residents for these new jobs.

The Chicago City Hall number connecting all departments is (312)744-5000.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania--This City has long recognized that rehabilitating neighborhoods and job creation must go hand-in-hand. Non-profit corporations have begun cooperating so that housing and commercial development can be linked.

A case in point is the partnership between Althris Shirdan's West Oak Community Development Corporation and state Representative Dwight Evan's West Oak Lane Community Development Revitalization Corporation. Individually, these non-profit corporations have done much to turn around the West Oak Lane neighborhood.

The partnership has attracted funding from the Annie Casey Foundation in Baltimore, which plans to spend $5 million in Philadelphia in the next five years to strengthen and develop job-creation networks.

The Mayor's Office number is (215) 686-1776.

Dallas, Texas--Developer Robert Shaw from Dallas said that moving back into a city still goes against the grain of most people. The strategy, according to Shaw, is to identify a target market and attract them. ìMore and more we see people wanting to live in urban areas, to have real neighborhoods. Our downtownís are where the jobs are, jobs drive the housing market, and the housing has to meet the needs of the customers. ì

"Why would they live 20 miles out if we could deliver housing that offers prestige, peace of mind, provides social amenities, adds to their leisure time because they don't have to commute, has financial value and meets their physical needs?" said Shaw.

The Dallas Mayor's Office number is (214) 670-5111.

Fort Worth, Texas--Willam Boesker, President of Sundance Square Corporation, points to a special improvement district created by the city to spur revitalization as being a key part of the success. This assistance plus development of a master plan, tax abatement, and tax investment were keys. Since this project started a 38-acre track of rental housng in downtown Fort Worth has been created. Two blocks of restaurants and entertainment businesses have increased to ten. In 1994, its AMC movie theater outlet anticipated 300,000 paying customers for the year. The actual figure was 700,000.

The apartments have attracted single professionals, childless young marrieds, empty nesters and corporate relocation families. "They all fit a profile," he said. "They have a pioneering spirit, they were bored with suburbia, they are willing to live in specially designed small space. Security is crucial. They love their pets. They are value-conscious."

The Fort Worth Mayor's office telephone number is (817) 871-8900.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 25, 1996, p. R10-DSW

Lawrence, Massachusetts - Volunteers Rehab Vacant Property; Habitat for Humanity Program

With volunteer labor and not a nickel in government funds, the Greater Lawrence Habitat for Humanity is completing its 11th and 12th houses on Hancock Street, in the rundown core of this former milltown.

On Railroad Street, the city sold a vacant parcel of land to Habitat for Humanity for $1. Four duplexes were erected and are now owned by Hispanic and Cambodian families. These eight families now pay $187.50 per month on their interest free mortgages and $127.50 in property taxes, totaling less than one-half of what a similar duplex would rent for in a nicer side of the city.

Habitat requires 500 hours of labor, or sweat equity, as a down payment from potential owners.

The sale price includes the estimated cost of the materials, plumbers and electricians, and the estimated market value of the land. Habitat also holds a $15,000 second mortgage in abeyance to deter buyers from trying to sell as a way to make a quick profit.

Once the fifteen homes (in Lawrence) have been built, this Habitat will become self-sustaining and able to erect or rehab one unit per year without requiring any additional funds.

The Lawrence Mayor's Office telephone number is (508) 794-5858. Habitat for Humanities nationwide toll-free number is (800) 334-3308.

Source: The Boston Globe, March 8, 1992 p.1

Nashua, New Hampshire - Habitat for Humanities needs volunteers

A group trying to turn the city's empty and abandoned buildings into low-cost housing says it is lacking one thing - volunteers. Member of the Greater Nashua Habitat for Humanity, an all-volunteer ecumenical organization dedicated to providing poor people with their own homes, say their organization can make a difference if they can convince enough people to lend a hand. "Without volunteers, we cannot get affiliated with Habitat for Humanity International and have access to all of the things that they do."

The Nashua Mayor's office number is (603) 594-3300.

The Boston Globe, October 7, 1993, p. 69

Lowell, Massachusetts - A multi-phase control program for blighted buildings

Building and fire department employees spend significant time boarding up doors and windows of abandoned buildings. They try to patrol the secured buildings at least once a month to check for needed repairs to security.

Comfed Savings Bank has cooperated with city officials by securing the many abandoned buildings for which the bank holds mortgages. "We do that sometimes to protect the asset and to protect the public. If the owner isn't responding and has walked away, we will basically try to secure the building," said Donald Ryan of Comfed Bank.

Both Lawrence and Lowell officials have convened meetings with bank officials on securing properties to which they hold title.

Lawrence City Councilors are considering a law that would require junkyards to record the name and address of anyone selling them scrap metal.

Lawrence building officials have filed 20 lawsuits against landowners for failing to secure or demolish their properties.

A Lawrence Housing Court judge issued an arrest warrant for a landlord who had failed to secure his buildings.

The Lowell City Hall telephone number, connecting all departments, is (978) 970-4040.

Source: The Boston Globe, (unknown date)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Insurance Company Gets Directly Involved in a Blighted Neighborhood

Homeowners insurance at reasonable rates is nearly impossible to obtain if your house falls within certain depressed areas of a city.

Allstate Insurance Company, with headquarters in Chicago, has developed what it calls its "Neighborhood Partnership Program". For its pilot program it chose a 240 block area in inner-city Philadelphia to determine if the company could provide better service and increase its business in this area if it became directly involved in the daily lives of potential customers.

The company plans to ally itself with the Neighborhood Improvement Council in an effort to provide standard homeowners policies at competitive rates and help residents reduce insurance losses. Allstate plans to involve itself in the daily lives of residents in the neighborhood. Along with local public safety officials and citizens groups it will help establish "townwatch" organizations, urge the city to raze or rehabilitate abandoned buildings, and set up tutorial programs and other activities for neighborhood youth.

Allstate will also hold meetings for its policyholders on ways to reduce loss and thus keep premium costs down. If losses are reduced, customers will get a dividend - Allstate will return part of the premium to them as a reward. This concept is so unusual that it required the approval of the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

The Philadelphia Mayor's Office number is (215) 686-1776.

Source: The Boston Globe, August 28, 1997, p. A6

Boston, Massachusetts--Bringing Back Blue Hill Avenue (Ghetto Revitalization)

In his inaugural speech, Bostonís Mayor Thomas Menino promised to turn over 51 city-owned parcels to developers within a year and fill at least half of these properties with new businesses within two years. So far, he has nearly accomplished that promise.

Charles Grigsby, Executive Director of the city's Public Facilities Department said that some of the parcels had been combined and translated into seven buildable lots--five of these have been designated for a housing development. Most of the abandoned buildings along this heavily blighted corridor are privately owned. City officials have been in touch with owners in an attempt to spur redevelopment by offering financial help and planning.

This fiscal year the city allocated three million dollars for targeting this street. Seven major commercial banks have pledged $35 million in flexible financing to any city enterprise zone, including Blue Hill Avenue, in addition to other money from various agencies directed at the same cause.

But already, private investment is returning to start a range of businesses, including a gas station. Cheryl Straughter, owner of the American-style restaurant Keith's Place moved her business from one end of the avenue into the enterprise zone where the city is helping to finance the construction of a new establishment that will have an outdoor cafe. Next door, Altimon Kelly has just opened a Laundromat--one of the largest in the city.

The Quincy Geneva Housing Development Corp. is rehabilitating 10 units of residential housing and two year old residential hotels to create 26 low-income units along with 5000-square feet of commercial space. In a separate project, Nuestra Comunidad (New Community) is developing 20 duplex units on nearby streets.

"We are starting to see that there are a number of minority individuals who are sort of in that moderate-income level who are moving back into the neighborhood", said Reginald Nunnally, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Development Corporation of Grove Hall and a member of the Blue Hill Avenue Task Force, a mayoral-appointed group of community organizations.

The Boston City Hall telephone number connecting all departments is (617) 635-4000.

Source: The Boston Sunday Globe, December 3, 1995, p.A29

Los Angeles, California - Lemons into Lemonade

A nonprofit housing organization has turned a decrepit group of vandalized Hollywood bungalows into low income housing for AIDS patients and preserved some historically significant buildings in the process. The Hollywood Community Housing Corporation purchased the St. Andrewís Bungalow Court in 1992 and worked with public & private sector organizations to revitalize the housing according to Christina Duncan, Corporate Executive Director.

The Los Angeles Mayor's telephone number is (213) 485-2121.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, January 22, 1997, p. 5 in section B.

East Boston, Massachusetts--A Community Revitalization Program

The house was an abandoned, blighted building on a street with more than its share of problems. Through a pilot program the property was purchased, rehabilitated and sold to live-in owners.

The program, called the "One-to-Four Family Housing Loan Program" is a partnership between two non-profit lenders and the city, and operates in conjunction with local community groups. Involved organizations range from unions working to help people buy their first home to quasi-federal agencies struggling to dispose of a vast portfolio of foreclosed homes.

Similar efforts are seen nationally, according to James Pickman, program secretary for the National Community Development Initiative, a national consortium of foundations and corporations that helps to fund such projects. The city and NOAH (a non-profit) had other partners.

The Boston Community Loan Fund and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation are two non-profit lenders. LISC, a local chapter of a national organization, receives funding from local churches, which invest in the hope of making positive social change at the same time as they make some money. The two lenders joined the city and the state, agreed on the strategy, and started the "One-to-Four" program. The state and the city each put up $3.5 million.

The city's money is used for "gap financing."

Using a $370,000 revolving line of credit from LISC and BCLS as well as credit from other sources, construction soon began. A lottery to award the house was held. The couple that won made a downpayment of $5,800 and received a 6.875 percent mortgage with Shawmut Mortgage Company that had worked closely with NOAH and had promised to provide a mortgage to a qualified buyer.

The Boston Mayor's Office number is (617) 635-4000. The LISC toll-free national number is (800) 635-4071.

Source: The Boston Globe, August 21, 1994 p. A93.

Jersey City, New Jersey - Using a computer to control crime in a blighted neighborhood

In 1990, faced with an overwhelming drug and crime problem, and with a chance to get federal grants, the Jersey City Police Department tried a fresh approach. Using a computer to plot crime incidence to specific corners and locations targeted police have isolated hotspots for drug dealing, auto theft, arson and burglary. Pinpoint intensification of police patrols have had a dramatic effect in reduction of crime in these areas. Anthony A. Braga, a research associate at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, who studies the system, said that police can pinpoint crime activity down to a single corner.

The Jersey City Police Department telephone number is (201) 547-5477. The telephone number for the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts is (617) 495-1100.

Source: The New York Times, May 11, 1997, p.1

Holyoke, Massachusetts - Grants to fight crime

The Holyoke Housing Authority is expected to receive $250,000 from the HUD to help combat drug use in its housing units. The money is from the "Public and Indian Housing Drug Elimination Program" that gives money to public housing authorities to not only combat drug use but provide education and treatment program to residents.

Under this grant the Authority will contract with the police department to institute a community policing program at the site and additional police will be contracted for other family units. On the drug education front the grant will fund programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs, Head Start and the Holyoke Health Center.

The Holyoke Mayor's Office number is (413) 534-2170.

Source: The Holyoke Sun, July 21,1995, p.14

New York City - Private Sector Corporations Help Rehabilitate Blighted Properties in Exchange for a Federal Tax Break

Executives at 19 large New York City companies said on August 8, 1996 that they had invested $147 million in a program to rehabilitate rundown city-owned apartment buildings. This investment is the largest so far in the New York Equity Fund, an 8-year old program in which companies pay for housing rehabilitation in exchange for federal tax breaks.

The New York City Mayor's telephone number is (212) 788-9600.

Source: The New York Times, August 9, 1996, section B, p.3

Lawrence, Massachusetts--Public/Private Cooperation. Community Needs Housing Creativity, Patience (Editorial) Christine McKenna

Abandoned properties are eating away at the vitality of many older cities in these recessionary times, but it is a kind of death that bears the seed of its own rebirth, if managed wellÖA couple of weeks ago the Lawrence City Council embarrassed itself when members rudely refused a request by a Habitat for Humanities representative, whose organization wanted to put together a deal that could have saved and renovated an abandoned house slated for demolition.

Knocking these buildings down has serious implications for the future said Abandoned Building Task Force Chairman (City Councilor) Richard Consoli.

Since May, the Neighborhood Housing Service has authorized 20 loans under its home ownership initiative program, a consortium of conventional lenders that has put up $65 million to be loaned for home purchase and repair over a 10-year period in targeted low-income neighborhoods. Buyers make a 3 percent down payment, and the lending consortium puts up 90 percent of the assessed value of the house. Lawrence Neighborhood Housing Service fills in the gap with a second mortgage.

The banks are willing to take a risk on buildings because they are putting up only 90 percent of the value and because it helps them fulfill their obligation under the Community Reinvestment Act.

The Lawrence Mayor's telephone number is (508) 794-5858.

Source: The Boston Globe (unknown date)

Waltham, Massachusetts--Downtown Revitalization

A $35 million apartment and retail development has been proposed for the downtown Waltham area to replace Grover Croninís store that has been closed and vacant since 1989. Mayor William Stanley said this week that the project would revitalize downtown. It will house 281 market-rate apartments with balconies overlooking the Charles River, along with 26,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and parking for 410 cars.

The Waltham Mayor's Office telephone number is (781) 893-4040.

Source: The Boston Globe, March 23, 1996 p.69

Boston, Massachusetts - Managing City Government

The Boston Management Consortium was founded in 1989 with a goal of providing consultants to City Departments at no cost. The consortium consists of 100 member companies, universities and unions that donate top personnel to assist with setting up strategic planning sessions and thinking about long-term organizational change. The consultants have played significant roles in expanding the city's crime watch networks, reclaiming abandoned buildings, and helping parents get daily updates about their children from several schools.

The Boston City Hall telephone number connecting all departments is (617) 635-4000.

Source: The Boston Globe. September 30, 1993, p.14

The Boston Mayor's Office telephone is (617) 635-4000.

Source: The Boston Globe, February 22, 1995, p.19

Utica, New York - Master Building Crafts Skills Training Program

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) publication highlighting successful programs for historic preservation chose the Utica program as one of the most successful in the country. Participants in this program are drawn from the county based YouthBuild Program. Participants are trained in the construction and renovation trades while at the same time acquiring a high school education. Learning a viable trade while earning money is very important to the participants. This type of program could become an increasingly important factor in the permanent revitalization, preservation and stabilization of inner city neighborhoods.

The Executive Director of Utica Community Action's telephone number is (315) 797-7364

Historic Preservation Initiative; The Master Building Crafts Skills Training Program: Preparing Youth an Communities for a New Future (HUD-1680-PIH)

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts--Youth in Construction

Cities thrive or perish in neighborhoods like Hyde Square. It is the urban equivalent of a canary in a mine shaft. Youthbuild, which trains former gang members for construction jobs, is building a duplex on Walden Street. Dozens of reconditioned units of housing stand on lots that neighbors had previously identified as sources of physical blight and drug traffic.

The non-profit Neighborhood Development Corporation of Jamaica Plain is seeking $180,000 from the city and a matching grant from the state to renovate and rent out a six-unit, dilapidated building on nearby Gay Head Street.

The Boston Mayor's Office telephone is (617) 635-4000.

Source: The Boston Globe, March 26, 1996, p. 10

Boston, Massachusetts--Inmates Seal Abandoned Buildings & Improve Neighborhoods

In yellow "Suffolk County House of Correction" T-shirts a team of eight inmates under guard is securing a vacant builööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööeloper can renovate them.

Before Project Pride panels are installed, they are covered with a thick coat of polyurethane, so that any graffiti that does appear can be easily removed.

The Suffolk County Sheriffís telephone is (617) 635-1000.

Source: The Boston Globe, August 1, 1992, p.15

Suffolk County, Massachusetts--Sheriff Rufo shows off his "Big House"

In the ultra-modern Suffolk County House of Correction inmates learn to cut and plane the boards that they will use to nail up abandoned buildings.

The Suffolk County Sheriffís telephone is (617) 635-1000.

Source: The Boston Globe, May 23, 1997, p. 2 (3rd Section)

4. Use of the Civil Law to Control Blight

Framingham, Massachusetts - An Innovative Building Commissioner fights Crime and Blight

The day after a house party in which a man was shot and seriously injured Framingham Building Commissioner Lew Colten condemned the building forcing the eviction of seven tenants. Although he had found numerous code violations, Colten said that he would not have condemned the building if it had not been for the shooting. What motivated him, he said, was a desire to make Framingham crime free.

There is nothing illegal about Colten's using the state building code to fight crime in this community of 65,000, observers say. In recent years in larger municipalities, building departments and other inspection teams have cooperated with police and prosecutors to close so-called crack houses.

But these buildings are often abandoned. What makes Colten's crusade unusual is his willingness to condemn a building where rents are still being collected and where the building is relatively intact. Last winter Colten ran a six-week course for Framingham Police to show them how to spot code violations that could help shut down buildings where crime may be occurring.

Another Colten program is his "Red Board" Program. He has made up a number of heavy, reinforced plastic banners with grommets designed to be attached to a derelict building in view of a public street. The banner contains the City logo, City Name, and his Department's name. The banner contains language that identifies the structure as a blighted building. The owner's name and telephone number is printed onto a separate plastic panel and then attached to the banner with Velcro strips. The Commissioner is contemplating also identifying the bank or other mortgage holder. The program, according to local sources, has succeeded beyond all expectations. Owners of blighted buildings report being embarrassed to be publicly identified. Sometimes people call them to offer to purchase the building to renovate it.

In an interview on the National Public Radio program "Fresh Air," broadcast nationally, Colten described this program as using shame to get slumlords to comply with basic fire, sanitary and safety codes.

The Framingham Building Commissioner's telephone number is (508) 620-4838.

Source: The Boston Globe (unknown date)

5. Massachusetts Attorney General Initiatives

Abandoned Housing Recovery Project

The Attorney General's Abandoned Housing Task force is currently involved in developing a project that would recover abandoned housing and, through appointed receivers, renovate the properties to building code standards. Costs would be billed to property owners. If the repairs are left unpaid by the owners, the property would be foreclosed and auctioned. The goal of the project is to attract owner-occupants who would have a vested interest in the property.

The project was made possible through a 1993 receivership statute, Section 127I of Chapter 111 of the Massachusetts General Laws, that allows a pubic agency to bring an action to appoint a receiver. If, upon notice to the landlord and creditor, no action is taken by either party to undertake renovations to bring the property up to code, the AG's Office would then seek to appoint a receiver. The receiver would, under the statute, have a limited scope of liability related to work undertaken at the property. The costs and expenses incurred by the receiver would become a priority lien recoverable against both the landlord and the property.

"Operation Take Back"

This program is designed to halt drug dealing in local neighborhoods and return properties where dealing occurs to the neighborhood for legitimate uses. The AG's Office, in conjunction with the county District Attorney's Office is seeking forfeiture of apartment housing where drug dealing has been documented.

An injunction was sought against a reality trust owner of said buildings. The complaint filed notes nine incidents of narcotics violation over a 16-month period in or near the apartments.

If the injunction is granted the properties would be turned over to the state, which would then consider more appropriate uses for the buildings.

The Massachusetts Attorney General's telephone is (617) 727-2200.

Source: Massachusetts Attorney General's Bulletin describing various programs (1995)

Reprinted with permission from the author.
 
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