Pittsfield program aims to fix blighted properties in viable neighborhoods


PITTSFIELD --- The state Attorney General's office and city officials are promoting a program that targets distressed residential properties in need of rehabilitation work and causing neighborhood blight.

The city's Department of Community Development will host a Receivership Training Seminar at 6 p.m. April 15 at City Hall for persons interested in taking on single- and multi-unit housing rehabilitation projects with funding assistance through the AG's Abandoned Housing Initiative.

Special Assistant Attorney General Julie Datres will conduct the training seminar, which uses the court-appointed receivership process. Certified receivers can act as general contractors for the purpose of rehabilitating dangerous or abandoned homes in otherwise viable neighborhoods.

"These are otherwise good neighborhoods," said Justine Dodds, city housing specialist and Fair Housing officer. Properties could include those with absentee owners or abandoned buildings, those with code violations, or foreclosed-upon houses or those that are part of an estate, she said, adding, "These can sit for a long time."

Persons who can demonstrate ability and experience rehabbing distressed properties could become a receiver, according to a release about the seminar. Candidates include a contractor or construction company, a lawyer, or a for-profit or nonprofit community group.

The session will help explain whether a person or organization is a good fit to be a receiver for a property threatened by foreclosure and/or in need of rehabilitation. Those who become certified will be listed as such by the AG.

Dodds said the city's Code Enforcement Team and the AG's office are in the process of identifying properties in Pittsfield that would be suitable for the program. Funding for approximately four city properties is available, she said.

A receiver would be approved for a project through Superior Court and have a priority lien on the property to be rehabilitated. Afterward the property can be auctioned and the receiver could recover labor or administrative fees.

Funding also would go into a revolving fund to help sustain the program.

Only taxes owed would trump the priority lien, meaning that taxes would have to be paid first if the property is auctioned. Properties with excessive amounts owed in back taxes are not usually a good fit for the program, Dodds said.

Qualified receivers can also work in other communities throughout the state.

Since its inception, the Abandoned Housing Initiative has worked with 53 cities and towns throughout the commonwealth, representing nearly 700 abandoned properties.

The Department of Community Development is acting as a funding monitor for the program in Pittsfield.

For additional information about the program, contact the director @abandonedhousing@state.ma.us, or call 617-963-2880. Visit the website at www.mass.gov/ago/ahi.


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