New Bedford to crack down on ‘problem properties’

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The mayor of New Bedford announced Friday that the city plans to crack down on housing and sanitation codes in order to bring “problem properties” into compliance.

Mayor Jon Mitchell said Friday one of his top priorities has been to strengthen code enforcement and improve the condition of New Bedford’s neighborhoods.

“There is a direct line between this and a lot of crime in our neighborhoods,” Mitchell said. “A lot of these landlords are renting to individuals from out of town who come down here because they hear there’s cheap properties in New Bedford, cash money every month, no appropriate background or credit checks.”

The first ordinance change will improve the condition of New Bedford’s neighborhoods. Under the existing ordinance, a property can be added to a “problem properties list,” and the cost of future police responses can be charged directly to the property owner. According to the ordinance, eight valid police complaints are necessary to add the problem property to the list.

The change will cut those police complaints in half, making it four complaints in a 12 month period.

The second ordinance change would improve the ability to contact owners of non-owner occupied residential buildings. The change will require certain non-owner occupied buildings to post a sign with contact information of the property owner or manager inside a building’s public area. According to the proposal, non-owner single-family occupied omes are excluded from the requirement.

The last proposed ordinance change would strengthen the existing “Clean and Lien” ordinance to reduce the impact on residents from nearby properties regarding litter or dangerous conditions. Currently, the ordinance allows 14 days for property owners to clean up the property, but with the proposed change owners would have to clean it up within five days.

“Working together with the City Council over the past six years, we have made significant progress in improving the condition of the city’s neighborhoods and holding the owners of problem properties accountable, but there is still more work to be done,” Mitchell said. “We need to give our inspectors the tools they need to do their jobs better and continue to improve the city’s appearance and livability. Residents and neighbors deserve a well-kept, clean, and healthy neighborhood and should not be subject to dirty or unkempt properties.”

City officials said existing ordinances have had some successes dealing with problem properties but feel more needs to be done to improve quality of life in several neighborhoods.