Outside 9 Inwood St., city officials tout "problem properties" progress

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Oct. 6, 2012

The three-family home at 9 Inwood St. appeared to reflect on the outside the alleged drug activity that was going on inside.

The bank-owned house’s roof needed work. The porch was in disrepair. A shopping cart was parked on the property, and below the damaged siding, weeds were in abundance.

Next door, a grassy lot was filled with tires, paint cans, and shards of glass.

A year ago, the city’s Inspectional Services Department moved to condemn the alleged crack house, which also functioned as an illegal rooming house.

On Saturday, Mayor Thomas Menino and other city officials, joined by the house’s new owner, stood outside the three-decker in an effort to highlight their efforts in turning around the property and a 27-page report from the “problem properties” task force set up to deal with homes like 9 Inwood.

“The condemnation has been lifted and it has been approved to once again house tenants,” the report says. “One unit is occupied, 2 are vacant. The criminal activity at this property has stopped. All violations have been corrected.”

Jeremy Dugre, a Brockton native who sells real estate for a living, bought the home in March for $285,000. He spent $100,000 to fix it up.

He’s going to have to spend some more: Dugre, who lives in Duxbury, said he just learned the house needs a brand new heating system.

But that’s okay, he said. “We’ve got great, great people living here,” he said.

Across the street, Sonia Hernandez watched the press conference from her porch. “There was a party going on all the time,” she said.

“It’s not an eyesore anymore,” she added. “You don’t have people hanging out on my porch.”

The 9 Inwood St. property is one of 18 the task force considered the city’s “most egregious problem properties.” Ten of those properties are located in Dorchester. Six properties are in Roxbury, according to the task force’s report, and two are in Allston-Brighton.

The Dorchester properties, according to the 14-member task force, include: 34 Norton St., 30 Ridgewood, 110 Greenbrier, 38 Julian, 19 Irma, 114 Sawyer Ave., 108 Adams St., and 91 Devon, and 27-37 Bakersfield.

They are among the 144 properties the city has investigated over the last year. The report details how each property’s situation was resolved.

Forty-six properties remain under “active investigation,” according to the report.

“In investigating these problematic residences (and businesses) we have seen a 55% reduction in police calls for service at these addresses and resolved a large number of sanitary and building code violations that were a blight to the neighborhood,” Menino wrote in the task force report’s introduction.

The task force was set up through an executive order and the City Council passed ordinances that allow city officials to hit wayward landlords with heavy penalties. “To date these penalties have not been used,” the report notes. “This largely reflects the City’s successful ability to bring owners of designated problem properties to the table to resolve issues. Additionally, these financial penalties are so severe that the mere threat of using them has been enough to compel action in recalcitrant owners.”

The task force is chaired by Michael Kineavy and its other members include Police Commissioner Ed Davis, Fire Commissioner Rod Fraser, Constituent Engagement Director Justin Holmes, Boston Housing Authority chief Bill McGonagle, Corporation Counsel Bill Sinnott and Chief Information Officer Bill Oates, among others.

Menino said in its second year, the task force will keep a data-driven approach, marshalling information from a collection of city agencies and City Hall’s 24 hour constituent hotline. “Through our focus on data we hope to be able to proactively predict where problem properties are likely to occur and intervene before complaints are made,” Menino wrote.