News & Media Coverage

Abandoned Brockton homes are being cleaned up under new ordinance

April 10, 2012  |  The Brockton Enterprise  |  Link to article

There are many boarded-up houses in the Warren Avenue-Green Street area of Brockton.

Erik Potter 04/10/2012 - 6:01 AM EDT

Kenny Correia knew the house across the street was blighted, abandoned and that people were occasionally sneaking into and using it.

So it didn’t surprise him to learn that a Work Express crew from Father Bill’s & MainSpring, under contract by the city, hauled out about 30 bags of garbage, including hundreds of “nip” bottles, used tires, and a kitchen sink when they cleaned up the outside of the property late last month.

“It’s an eyesore,” Correia, 30, said. “It’s got to go.”

The house at 580 North Montello St. and its next-door neighbor were the first homes cleaned up under Brockton’s new abandoned and vacant home registry, created by ordinance last year.

The ordinance requires owners of vacant or abandoned homes to register them with the city annually and pay a fee.

The fee grows larger the longer the property is abandoned, an incentive for the owner to get the home fit and occupied.

The initial fee is $150, but grows as high as $1,500 for homes vacant for three years or more.

The fees go into a fund to cover the up-front cost of monitoring and cleaning up the properties and boarding up windows and doors.

Those costs are recouped when the properties are sold through a property lien.

The Brockton Redevelopment Authority began mailing notices to the owners of properties the city knew to be abandoned on March 17 and has already sent out 200 notices, said Jim Plouffe, an inspector at the city’s building department, which is administering the program.

Abandoned homes have been a problem in Brockton since the foreclosure crisis began.

As many as 25 homes have already been registered, Plouffe said, and at least eight of them have been boarded up. He’s hoping to have crews in to clean up the lawns – which often serve as neighborhood dumps – of at least six homes by the end of the month, including two this week on Amherst Street.

“Any time you can clean up the neighborhood it’s a plus,” said Francisco Evora, a case worker at the Cape Verdean Association, whose offices are across the street from abandoned homes. “To have a house like that in front of you is not a good thing.”

Tommy Wise, 36, of Brockton, was one of the Work Express workers on the job at North Montello.

He’s been on cleanup jobs for abandoned homes before, and not just on the outside. Once he had to wear a breathing apparatus and full-body protective gear inside a house because of the stench from human feces.

He’s seen a human knee bone, bullet holes and drug paraphernalia, including hundreds of hypodermic needles.

The North Montello homes, he said, were not even that bad in comparison. “About average,” he said.

Asked how many homes he hopes to clean up under the new ordinance, Building Superintendent James Casieri said it’s too soon to tell.

“We don’t know how many need to be cleaned up, but – all of them,” he said.

Casieri said the police, health and water departments have been helpful in notifying him of homes that appear to be abandoned so he can investigate and send notices if they are abandoned.