The New Bedford City Council seems poised finally to give the Mitchell Administration the tools it needs to pressure absentee landlords to comply with building and safety codes.

A handful of people own hundreds of the most run-down and neglected properties in the city, and up until now have had little to fear from elected officials who have shown little willingness to do anything about it.

You've driven through the neighborhoods and seen the trash littered properties where broken tenements sit filled with some of the least desirable occupants. These neighborhoods are where much of the city's crime is committed or hatched. They harbor gang members, drug dealers, drug users and often times illegal aliens unable to rent anywhere else.

These slumlords are content to allow this mess to fester so long as they collect their monthly rent, most of which is subsidized or paid in full by the taxpayer.

The Council tonight is expected to advance several ordinances that would tighten the screws on these property owners. Among other things, the proposed laws would:

  • Lower the number of valid police complaints necessary for a property to be designated a problem property from 8 to 4.
  • Require the owners of non-owner-occupied buildings to post the contact information of the property owner or agent in a conspicuous place in the building's main public area
  • Limit property owners to three days as opposed to fourteen to dispose of litter that is a source of filth or that is dangerous to the public health, safety, or welfare.

These steps, combined with an increased police presence and concentration in these troubled neighborhoods, would go a long way towards ending the blight and safety concerns that make it difficult for law-abiding residents to thrive there.

Our sleepy legislative delegation then needs to act by proposing legislation that would allow the city to tax these multi-property owners as a business enterprise, which they truly are.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.