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Necessity is the mother of invention, and New Bedford was surely in need of a creative solution.
Saddled with more than 1,000 properties subject to tax liens, abandoned eyesores that were dragging down the value of adjacent properties while bringing in no tax revenue themselves, the city came upon a solution that could be applied to down-on-their-luck neighborhoods across the region.
Through its Side Yard program, New Bedford is selling abandoned lots to abutting property owners for very small sums – between $250 and $999, along with financial and bureaucratic help – in order to get someone to take ownership of the vacant plots.
By integrating the “side yards” into their existing properties, many of them multifamily structures, the homeowners have a number of options, from creating gardens to adding parking space for residents where none now exists.
Exactly how this idea could be applied to certain parts of Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls or other blighted neighborhoods in the state is open for discussion (the cities could apply rules on what could be done with the properties in order that they are improved rather than just added to a landlord’s portfolio for later disposal). But it is an idea worth considering as another way to combat the corrosive effects of the lingering urban housing crisis. •