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Town may enter into Abandoned Housing Initiative

Date: 10/29/2015

WILBRAHAM – The town may enter into the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative in an effort to expedite the process of remodeling blighted homes.

Board of Selectmen Chair Robert Boilard told Reminder Publications having the Attorney General’s seal on a letter to property owners might carry more weight and allow the unoccupied properties to be repaired and potentially sold.

“There’s a lot of foreclosures going within the state of Massachusetts and this program is, the way we see it, to expedite getting the homes back on the tax rolls,” he added. “A lot of those foreclosed homes end up going into disrepair and sit for two or three years and we feel that with the power behind the Attorney General and their connections that they should be turn these houses back around to help the tax revenue in the town.”

Boilard said there are between six and 10 homes in the town that are considered blighted properties. One of those properties is located on Springfield Street.

“This does not displace people from their homes,” he noted. “If people are having financial difficulties in their homes and it falls into disrepair … this does not by any means give the town of Wilbraham or the Attorney General’s Office the ability to pull you out of your home. These are unoccupied homes.”

The program brings the power of the Attorney General’s office and avenues to contact banks, which own foreclosed properties, he noted.

“What happens a lot of times is if we have a foreclosed property that we want to get back on the tax roles, we don’t know who to contact,” Boilard said. “The town generally doesn’t have the information on hand – what bank owns the home?”

Boilard said if the town is trying to contact the banks that own the blight properties, it takes “resources away from other duties as a town.”

He added that he believes the only downside to program is that it does not entail commercial blight properties.

One notable commercial property in a state of disrepair is the site of the former Belli’s Restaurant and Ground Round at 2451 Boston Road, which Boilard said is still in the Massachusetts Land Court for foreclosure for $70,000 in back taxes owed to the town.

“We’re estimating by the time we actually get our hands on that building and are able to do something with it, you could be looking at 12 to 18 more months,” he added.