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Fitchburg Eyes Funding to Fix Blighted, Vacant Homes

September 18, 2018

FITCHBURG -- The city may get a new source of funding to fix blighted and vacant homes in two neighborhoods.

A new entity under the umbrella of NewVue Communities could receive support from the state to rehabilitate blighted and vacant homes in Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Clinton and Athol, said Executive Director Marc Dohan.

“We’re going to be able to take those homes that have been vacant for a long time and put them back on the tax roles,” said Dohan. “By getting them back on the roles it will help cities prosper, and stabilize the neighborhoods.”

The pilot program is unique, said Dohan, because member cities and towns will suggest the homes they want to see renovated, rather than NewVue, the nonprofit community development corporation, approaching the communities with proposals, Dohan said.

Dohan said “there’s no funding yet connected to this project.” Municipal bodies in all five cities and towns must first sign onto the project, a process he said is ongoing.

Tom Skwierawski, the city’s executive director of community development, said the state could make $2.5 million available for the program annually five communities during the three-year pilot project.

The funding would be split, not necessarily equally, across the five communities, he said.

“The state is really committed to investing a significant amount of funds in one, two and three-family properties,” said Skwierawski.

Homes eligible to be renovated through the program must be vacant for a period of three years and contribute to neighborhood blight, said Director of Housing and Development Liz Murphy.

The city has identified over 30 eligible homes located either north of upper Main Street or in the lower part of South Street, she said.

Of those homes, Murphy expects between 5 and 10 will be flipped during the three-year pilot.

Murphy will nominate properties to her counterparts on a board charged with managing the program, which decide whether to move forward with renovations, said Skwierawski.

After renovations are complete, the homes will be available to buyers under an income restriction of 110 percent of the area’s median income, he said. The buyer must also commit to living at the residence for at least 7 years.

“That’s intended to keep investors from coming in and flipping it, and to encourage the stability of a neighborhood,” he said.

Proceeds from selling the renovated homes will be placed in a revolving fund and be used to buy more properties, according to Skwierawski.

A primer on the NewVue Liabilities to Assets program will be given at a joint public hearing of the Planning Board and City Council at 7 p.m. Tuesday Memorial Middle School, she said.

A report has been compiled which lists each eligible Fitchburg property. The Planning Board and City Council may choose to remove properties from the list, if, for example, members learn a home is occupied, said Skwierawski.

The eligible Fitchburg properties are:

58 Mt Globe St.

52/54 Mt Globe St.

4 Upton St.

29 Goodwin St.

18 Mt Vernon St.

127-129 Mt Vernon St.

69 Marshall St.

94 Marshall St.

15 Marshall St.

30 Ryefield Road

73 Mechanic St.

5 Oxford St.

8 Jay St.

34 Garnet St.

94 Pleasant St.

137 Green St.

28 Taft St.

425 North St.

353 Blossom St.

9 Payson St.

12 Nashua St.

14 Cross St.

33 Forest St.

35 Birch St.

54 Milk St.

64 Nashua St.

67 South St.

80 South St.

108 Birch St.

177 Milk St.

196 Hazel St.

479 Milk St.

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