Mayor Elorza Launches New Effort To Tackle Housing Blight

Oct 14, 2015

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has set himself an ambitious goal: to rid the city of all housing blight in the next six years. If the city reaches that goal, Elorza said it would be the first city of its size to do so.

On Tuesday, the mayor unveiled his initiative to deal with hundreds of vacant and abandoned homes in the state capital. The project, called EveryHome Providence, offers what the administration calls a suite of tools for taking on these properties.

Essentially, the programs offer streamlined processes for obtaining the buildings, and protections to keep them out of tax sales. In some cases the properties in tax sales are bought by investors who may leave them empty while waiting for resale values to rise.

Elorza said the end goal of the program is to get long-term residents into the estimated 500 to 600 problem properties.

“It’s about putting families into the home,” said Elorza. “It’s about making them safer, and putting them to good use. So at the heart of it, this is community development.

By the mayor’s count that’s a rate of one hundred properties per year.

Dealing with vacant, abandoned, and otherwise nuisance properties was part of Elorza’s platform while running for office. The former housing court judge says he lives next to one such property himself. These unused homes can become centers for trash and crime. Elorza said they’re often dangerous and unsightly, driving down neighborhood property values. Many of these homes are leftovers from the foreclosure crisis of 2007. The process of untangling these properties from a web of ownership and absentee landlords, can cause homes to sit idle for years.

The program is starting off with a combination of city, federal, and private investments to fund the project. So far Rhode Island Housing has jumped aboard with an initial $3 million revolving fund.

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