NEW BEDFORD - City officials joined Mayor Jon Mitchell in the Ashley Room of City Hall on Friday morning to announce the city's move to strengthen housing and sanitation codes throughout New Bedford.

The initiative comes as an effort to reduce the amount of problem properties and other neighborhood nuisances by more strictly enforcing current city ordinances and their penalties.

The first proposed change would crack down on what the Mayor describes as “problem properties.” The current ordinance dealing with these properties states that a residence is added to the “Problem Properties List” if eight or more police complaints are filed on it within a 12 month span, regardless of the severity of complaints. Once on the list, the cost of future police responses can be directly charged to the property owner. The change proposed on Friday would cut the number of police complaints in half in order for one to be added to the list.

“We need to give our inspectors the tools they need to do their jobs better and continue to improve the city's appearance and livability,” Mayor Mitchell said. ““Working together with the City Council over the past six years, we have made significant progress in improving the condition of the city's neighborhoods and holding the owners of problem properties accountable, but there is still more work to be done.”

City Councilor At-Large Ian Abreu spoke alongside the mayor and highly advocated for enforcing tougher rules problem properties. He says the current state of some city apartments and tenements are “completely unacceptable.”

“These individuals who continue to own these properties and who are not community invested need to be held accountable,” said Abreu. “Let's make no mistake about it, that there is a direct line between this and a lot of crime in our neighborhoods.”

The second ordinance change proposed in aims to improve the ability to contact owners of non-owner occupied residences. Mayor Mitchell says that the inability of tenants or city officials to directly reach landlords has been a “persistent challenge at many buildings.” The change to this ordinance would require property owners to post an accessible sign in a common area of the property listing the contact information of the owner or manager of the building.

Lastly, a third proposed change would come to the existing “Clean and Lien” ordinance, intended to reduce the impact of properties with litter, filth, and dangerous conditions on neighboring homes. The current ordinance gives the property owner 14 days to clean up, dispose, and rid their property of litter, filth, and safety hazards. The change to this ordinance would cut the 14 day window an owner has to clean up down to five days.

“The problem we've confronted is that it doesn't happen fast enough. Under current city law a property owner has 14 days to do the cleanup after service has been returned to the city. That's too long,” Mitchell explained. “So we're proposing an amendment to the cleaning ordinance that compresses the time period to comply with a cleanup order. This will hopefully make these landlords sit up straight so they can ensure that their properties don't end up like that. Residents and neighbors deserve a well-kept, clean, and healthy neighborhood and should not be subject to dirty or unkempt properties.”

Pictures showing the "before and after" of property's follwing cleanups. Photo Credit: City of New Bedford