Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin joined Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa at a press conference today to announce a $250,000 grant awarded to the City of Central Falls Nuisance Task Force to support the City's efforts to identify and remediate vacant and abandoned properties, launch of a tri-lingual, community-based education program about foreclosures, and an innovative public engagement and community data program and report on steps the City is taking to address the issue.
The funding is made available through the National Mortgage Settlement between the five largest mortgage service providers and attorneys general nationwide, including Attorney General Kilmartin. Under the terms of the national mortgage settlement, monies were set aside for homeowner education and assistance programs.
"With the highest rate of total foreclosures in the state, Central Falls continues to struggle to rebound from the economic downturn and housing crisis," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. "Yet, despite the challenges, I commend the commitment and determination of Mayor Diossa and city officials to eliminate the blight that is caused by foreclosed and abandoned properties and for providing homeowners with assistance to stay in their homes. I am confident this grant will help continue the turnaround for the City of Central Falls."
"Through an executive order last year, I created the Central Falls Nuisance Task Force to tackle nuisance properties throughout our community. The Task Force has already grown to monitor over 90 properties in the City ranging from pre-foreclosure, to foreclosure, to bank-owned to properties that are vacant and abandoned. With this strategic investment, the Task Force will be able to increase its capacity to prevent the effects of the foreclosure crisis in our community, and do more for our homeowners, housing stock and our neighborhoods," said Mayor James A. Diossa.
With the grant, the Central Falls Nuisance Task Force will be launch a holistic and comprehensive approach to addressing nuisance properties in the City, including education and prevention, mediation, and enforcement.
The grant will enable the Task Force to retain personnel to increase its capacity to prevent against and mitigate the effects of foreclosed and abandoned properties in the City. The Task Force will first collect data on all homeowners in the City, identify and rank nuisance properties and homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure, and develop strategies to avoid foreclosures.
In addition, the grant will allow the Nuisance Task Force to develop a foreclosure toolkit and presentation – in English, Spanish and Portuguese – for current and future homeowners to include financial literacy, homeownership and the issues related to foreclosure as well as available resources to homeowners struggling to remain in their homes.
Finally, the grant will fund a foreclosure abatement program which the City will use to ensure foreclosed properties remain safe and secure.
The Task Force will work with property owners and the Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corporation to take appropriate action to address nuisance issues including building and fire code violations to prevent foreclosures when possible and to facilitate a timely foreclosure process that take City objectives into account when foreclosure is unavoidable or has already taken place, including recommending legal action with uncooperative property owners whose assets pose a continual nuisance to public health and safety, as well as connecting corrective property owners with the resources that can help them address code or safety issues.
The Central Falls Nuisance Task Force has already identified more than 90 homes that are currently in violation of building or fire codes, have been reported to police or fire for disturbances, or failed to pay property taxes. The Nuisance Task Force meets biweekly with homeowners to mediate issues to avoid foreclosure or court action.
The Nuisance Task Force includes representatives from the Mayor's Office, the Law Department, the City Council, Code Enforcement, the Fire Department, the Department of Public Works, the Police Department, the Planning Department, the Tax Assessor and the Rhode Island Attorney General's office.