On November 10th, student participants in the MIT@Lawrence practicum hosted their second public presentation. This practicum course is investigating the effectiveness of a newly passed ordinance in the City of Lawrence aimed at regulating the maintenance of abandoned and foreclosed residential properties.
Their first meeting was in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This time, the meeting took place at MIT. There were numerous community partners in attendance including representatives from Lawrence city government (Economic Development, Community Development, and Inspectional Services), as well as MIT PhD candidate Lauren Lambie-Hanson whose recent research has focused on foreclosed property outcomes in Boston.
Practicum students presented the following findings:
• REO properties cluster in neighborhoods north of the Merrimack River. Tower Hill and the North Common neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted.
• There are currently more foreclosure auctions and petitions (than REOs) and they are impacting almost every neighborhood in the city. Most are north of the river. Many such properties will become REOs.
• For every single-family REO in Lawrence, there are two multi-family REOs. More tenants than homeowners are being displaced.
• The majority of publicly-owned REOs (HUD, Fannie Mae, etc.) in the city are located north of the Merrimack River.
• Compliance with the ordinance can be improved. Registration of foreclosed and abandoned properties is happening in every neighborhood, yet no neighborhood is fully registered.
• Among property holders that have more than one REO, all but two holders have registered at least one property. No property holders have registered all of their properties.
• Most of the banks that own REOs in Lawrence own fewer than five.
• Each REO property holder has a similar ratio of foreclosure petitions, auctions, and REOs.
By the end of the public meeting, community partners asked students to continue their investigation by:
• interviewing additional stakeholders including Inspectional Services staff to assess organizational capacity with respect to ordinance compliance and enforcement;
• researching best practices for maintaining and managing REOs in other small, post-industrial cities; and
• offering tactics and concrete tools for improving the registration process.
Students are currently preparing for the final community meeting in Lawrence on December 1st. Mayor Lantigua will attend and provide feedback on student recommendations.
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Post by Lorlene Hoyt, Polina Bakhteiarov, and Jeffery Juarez.