Abandoned homes causing issues for the community

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – This was part of a month-long investigation. You can see anything from rats to squatters inside these homes. It’s a problem in just about every city. It’s a problem in Springfield that can become deadly.

The 22News I-Team went inside three abandoned homes in Springfield with seven city departments as they performed home inspections. Sometimes you find something that’s left like a box of shotgun shells, or sometimes there’s nothing left at all.

“If you look in the bathroom, you can see that all the water pipes are stolen, shower heads, there isn’t anything that they won’t take,” said Dave Cotter Springfield’s Deputy Director of Code Enforcement.

The City of Springfield has 500 abandoned homes that they know of. Compare that to Worcester, which has 380 abandoned homes.

(Are these just deadbeat landlords a lot of times that can’t pay the property taxes?)

“This one appears to be that they just abandoned the property, maybe they couldn’t afford the mortgage, maybe they couldn’t pay the rent, whatever the case may be, we have to get the place secured, and let the court figure it out,” said Cotter.

“It’s been millions and millions of dollars cleaning up someone else’s mess,” said Gerry McCafferty, Springfield’s Housing Director.

The City uses these options with an abandoned home:

They take the owner to court. If the owner refuses to do anything, they ask the court to have the city take it over. Then someone is appointed to take care of the house (receivership) or the city demolishes the home. After that it is either turned into green space or rebuilt.

Another potentially deadly problem with abandoned homes is when a fire starts like what happened on Crosby Street, just a few weeks ago, it creates one of the most dangerous situations for firefighters.

“More firefighters get injured and killed in vacant structures than any other type of building,” said Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant.

Springfield has had 44 fires in abandoned homes since 2012.

“My concern is getting those buildings down and getting the risk factor down for my people in the department,” said Conant.

(What issues does the city have in terms of the timeline they can knock down a home?)

“I think the tremendous barrier for the city is the cost,” said McCafferty. “We have already done a lot of demolitions in that area, and we’ll be doing some more, but other times buildings are just sitting there waiting for us to find the money to demolish.”

The 22News I-Team went back to all three of the abandoned homes it visited with city inspections a few weeks later. At one house it was still boarded up, another had plywood ripped down and the door was open, and the third, which was not boarded up originally, had several windows open in the house.

The city did go and board up the house that had the door open that same day and were made aware of the home with the windows open.

If you know of an abandoned home in your neighborhood, call 3-1-1 if you live in Springfield or your local housing department.

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