BRISTOL - More than 60 blighted properties have been taken down since code enforcement was ramped up, resulting in landlords taking the city’s warnings seriously and neighborhoods improving as a result, said Mayor Ken Cockayne.
He stressed that tearing down properties is the last resort for the city when it is left with no other choice.
After the most recent demolitions of properties at 164 Frederick St. and 44 Taillon St. this past month, he said, “most of the really bad ones” are gone. There were also three properties that were taken down due to fire-related damage. There are currently no buildings scheduled for demolition and what remains are buildings with code problems, Cockayne said, that he hopes landlords will work to correct.
“Many of these cases begin with a complaint from someone who is living in one of these houses,” said Cockyane. “We then send in our fire, health, electrical and building inspectors. If there are minor problems, we tell the landlord to fix them and then follow up. If action is still not taken, we start the legal process to make sure that it gets fixed.
“If the problem is so bad that the building has to be condemned, we work to relocate the tenants and whatever costs are involved, whether for moving or putting them up in a hotel for a few days, the landlords are required to pay.”
Prior to becoming mayor, Cockayne said that code enforcement was “a lot of talk and no bite.”
“The follow-ups didn’t happen much prior to me being mayor,” he said. “Now, when we come out to a house, the property owners expect us to be back and they fix it or they know that we will take action for public safety reasons. No one should be forced to live in the kinds of conditions that we have seen in some of these buildings - walls knocked out, roofs about to cave in - so we’ve taken action against the slum lords who didn’t invest in their property.
“Actions speak louder than words and while there is still work to be done we are going after blight hard and will continue to do so.”
Cockayne said that the city has invested $2.7 million on code enforcement but has expended only $2.6 million as compensation from the landlords whose properties have been demolished goes back into this fund. He said that there is currently an outstanding amount of about $500,000 that the city is trying to sue landlords to recoup.
“We won’t get 100 percent of it back, but this money is an investment in the community,” said Cockayne. “When we take down these blighted properties, we are increasing property values, which makes other people on those streets want to fix up their properties, which attracts better tenants. It’s a snowball effect.
“One of the best compliments I received was when I went to Home Depot. Someone stopped me and asked if I was the mayor. When I told him that I was, he told me that paint and wood sales have gone up from people buying more supplies to fix-up their homes.”
Cockayne noted that as a result of the city’s aggressive code enforcement policies, several properties have since been rehabilitated or are in the process of rehabilitation. These properties include 220 Summer St., 312 Oakland St., 106 Judd St. and 52 Sharon St.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or .