Officials crack down on vacant and foreclosed properties - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Springfield officials crack down on vacant and foreclosed properties

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A new ordinance in the city of Springfield will require owners of vacant properties or the institution foreclosing on a property to register with the city and to place a $10,000 bond to ensure accountability.

The process must be completed within 30 days of a property becoming vacant or within 15 days of the foreclosure process being initiated.

"This is to bring everybody to the table," said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. "The people who are responsible for these properties, to make sure that they are accountable and that our taxpayers and our residents not only have safety but have quality of life."

Public safety officials say these properties currently pose many dangers within the city.

"On occasion we have these homes taken over by undesirables that squat inside the home and might deal drugs or just use the home for operational purposes for criminal activity," said Police Commissioner William Fitchet.

The city's fire commissioner says fighting fires in vacant properties is the biggest source for firefighter injury or death nationwide. In 2011 firefighters in Springfield battled 19 fires in vacant homes and in 2012 they responded to 18.

"It is going to get a handle on all of the vacant and foreclosure properties in the city of Springfield. It will get them boarded up, get them taken care of so that we don't have to send the people of the Springfield Fire Department into these dangerous conditions," said Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant.

The city's code enforcement commissioner says roughly 1,600 homes in the city are foreclosed upon or vacant at any given time. And residents say they're happy to have action taken to try and cut down on that number.

"The more abandoned houses there are, there's more drug trafficking going on, you know," Springfield resident Van Johan Rondon said.

The ordinance was first passed by the City Council in 2011. The policy has since been upheld in U.S. District Court.

The city is expected to front around 3 quarters of a million dollars for the implementation of the new policy. Officials say once it gets up and running it will eventually be self-sufficient.

The City Council will meet to discuss an appropriation to fund the initial implementation on Monday night.

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