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Blight Rx: Sell To Alejandro & Virginia? Or St. Luke’s?
by Paul Bass | Jul 9, 2012 12:07 pm
As potential buyers tramped through the rubble of an abandoned Dixwell house Monday, a Mexican-born couple hoped to move from an apartment across the street into their own renovated home. Leaders of a nearby church envisioned creating a home for returning war vets.
And the city had a good problem on its hands: figuring out how best to turn blight into neighborhood renewal.
The tramping and dreaming took place at 55 Dickerman St., a trashed three-story home whose owner walked away years ago.
The city recently seized that house and another on Fair Haven’s Clay Street as part of a new effort to tackle blight: aggressively taking control of abandoned hovels. (Read about that here.) The city is targeting 150 long-abandoned vacant homes. In cases like 55 Dickerman, it tries to contact the owner. If unsuccessful, it starts levying fines for blight. If those fines go unpaid, it moves to foreclose—then quickly puts the house up for sale.
“We do not want to be landlords,” said Erik Johnson, head of city government’s Livable City Initiative (LCI).
Monday morning LCI held open houses for prospective buyers at the two properties, the first two seized under this effort.
By 10:30, after only an hour and a half, 24 interested parties had already braved crumbling ceilings, wall-to-wall ripped furniture and moldy books and trash to scope out 55 Dickerman. The house stands halfway down a one-block street that parallels Whalley Avenue one block to the south and Goffe Street one block north.
Luis Islas and Virginia Cruz (pictured at the top of the story) were among the visitors. They came from directly across the street, where Cruz and her husband Alejandro Sampedro they rent an apartment. They’re itching to buy the house, do a gut-rehab, and move in.
The couple came here from Mexico 20 years ago. Sampedro works as a car mechanic. Cruz runs a home day care. They have four children. Islas is a family friend; he accompanied Cruz to look at the house while Sampedro was at work.
“If we can buy it today, we’ll start working today,” Islas declared.
The fair market value of the home and the 0.14-acre land is $44,200, according to land records. Built in 1915, it has a living area of 1,971 square feet.
No one’s buying the house until at least next month. Prospective buyers have until Aug. 6 at 5 p.m. to put in offers. Then an LCI committee will decide to whom to sell the building.
LCI officials were among those on hand at 55 Dickerman Monday. LCI Director Johnson (pictured) said the committee will give owner-occupants priority over outside investors. But it will also look at prospective buyers’ financing and overall financial capacity. Taking title to a house like 55 Dickerman is just the beginning of a long, costly, complicated journey. (This film may serve as a cautionary tale.)
That means weighing the good intentions of would-be owner-occupants like the Sampedro/Cruz family against the good intentions of a neighborhood institution like St. Luke’s Church.
The church, around the corner on Whalley, formed a development corporation in order to invest in and stabilize the neighborhood. It has already built an 18-apartment home for seniors a block away on Goffe. It is currently looking at buying five properties right on Dickerman to renovate and rent out.
Church elder Sheldon Rhinehart (pictured) along with other St. Luke’s leaders joined the throng Monday morning to “explore the possibility” of whether 55 Dickerman should be house number six in their plan.
Rhinehart said the church would like to fix the house and rent it to two families of returning Afghan or Iraq war vets at a time. “We don’t want to put 10 veterans in one little place,” he explained. Rather, the church would like to help vets’ families “assimilate” into the existing neighborhood.
Whoever wins the house will have lots of clearing out to do, from the trash and destroyed furniture covering the main floors ...
... up the neglected staircases ...
... to the equally trashed second and third floors.
The winner will get a bonus CD—assuming the squatters and rodents and vermin that have had their way with the house the past few years no longer can get in. A copy of Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz’s Deja Vu (Uptown Babu) appeared in playable condition Monday morning inside its jewel box on the second floor.
This story was updated and corrected to get the names of the Dickerman Street family straight.
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This is great, but the City should cut the red tape and get these 150 abandoned properties into the hands of investors much more quickly. They are a drag on the neighborhood.
The NHI’s dictionary reads a bit different from mine. Their “aggressive” is my “glacial, ” “reluctantly,” or “heal dragging.” Two blighted, abandoned houses in how many years? I’ll cheer and use the words “wonderfully aggressive” if they sort out the other 150 within a year.
I glad to read this kind of news, But I would like to make a point.
When LCI and the City are offering these houses to the potential buyers could be better that make all the buying process through a non-profit agency, that really understand this community. Since It’s not only is going to be the challenge to fix the house but to deal with all the issues that are happening around the area. Working together with LCI, an agency and the home owner I see more success to end it up for a family who actually want to leave here. This non-profit agency ( http://www.nhsofnewhaven.org/ ) really works with the community in need
So very pleased to see this happening. I put the anti-blight in motion quite a few years ago. I wish I could have been present at this house when LCI opened it for potential buyers. I would love to see St.Lukes win the support to rehab and place a nice family or two in this house, especially after serving our country….although I have no problem with others trying to obtain that American dream of home ownership. Who ever buys also needs to have the resources to make it livable and not chance it remaining vacant with any further deterioration.
So my hat is off to Erik Johnson for the second house to come on line through the anti-blight law. Lets keep it going and keep up the pace. Velma, I know you will monitor this process and stay involved until the job is done! So happy for the neighborhood folks.
Claudia, yes NHS would also be a good fit for this house. They would ofcourse rehab it and sell it to someone who is going to occupy it and they would be screened for financial reasons and potentially helped financially. NHS also schools new home buyers….a win win situation.
In this case the wind wing situation will be more for more than two as a beneficiaries if they planing these rehabs in conjunction with non-profit agencies, LCI need to “keep on eye” around area too.
The reason I mention NHS is not only because they can help financially, they also have I good support and good name to avoid fraud with the process to qualify for the home loan. Also they have community leadership programs to encourage the community to stand up for their neighborhoods. I worked together with agency in the past, I organized a few events to beautify the neighborhood and they really support our area en Fair Haven.
These evens creates a community, the city and others need to be in charge of building safety, healthy and decent neighborhoods for LOW INCOME FAMILLIES. Just to be clear I’m not selling NHS. I just shearing my experience I had with them. I took one of their community leadership classes.