By Harry Kane
Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente recently proposed a bill to the Board of Aldermen that suggests a solution to problem properties.
Lafuente wants increased fines until such time that the properties’ issues have been rectified.
Complaints over the years concerning absentee landlords, who are not taking care of their properties, have caused residents to offer their grievances to Alderman Lafuente.
Dilapidated buildings with overgrown areas and heaps of trash has repeatedly caused some properties to be the focus of community frustration.
“It’s just ridiculous what’s going on with some of these absentee landlords,” said Lafuente.
In order to rid the city of the problem properties Lafuente recently put forward the blueprint of a new ordinance to make Somerville safer and cleaner.
The primary issue is safety. If the property is unsafe, and there are complaints, Lafuente suggests police involvement.
“If there’s a problem property we should be able to place a police detail in front of that property to protect the rest of the neighbors,” explained Lafuente.
To encourage a rapid response, the cost of the police detail ($40 an hour) will then be forwarded to the landlord, according to the Alderman’s plan.
If the landlord is charged the fees associated with having a 24-hour cycle police detail, the landlord should act quickly to resolve the problem.
However, if it were merely a cleanliness concern, the new ordinance might only involve fines.
“In other words, they [landlords] are going to show up more frequently and know what’s going on, as opposed to just getting a check in the mail,” he said.
Other cities such as Boston, Quincy and Woburn have instituted similar methods to help safeguard the community, according to the alderman.
According to Lafuente, there are many chronic offenders in Somerville and when the landlord is not being responsible, and not managing his or her property, and checking out whom they are leasing to, it becomes a problem property.
“It’s disrupting and terrorizing the neighborhood,” said Lafuente.
The bill will be discussed among police and elected officials in the Somerville Legislative Matters Committee on Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.
“Once we have concluded the hearing and have come up with a definition for this ordinance, I think it is going to change our neighborhoods drastically,” said Lafuente.