It took a campaign of shame by Courant columnist Helen Ubinas to get a federal housing official to finally pay nearly $800 in penalties and make her decaying house in Hartford look slightly less disheveled. What will it take for all the other rotting properties around the state?
Putting pressure on their owners too. But some towns are wearying of the time-consuming and often nasty chore of tracking and dunning property owners. Seymour is refusing to take anonymous tips. Montville's town council rejected a blight ordinance in July that would have allowed anonymous complaints.
Blight is a neighborhood killer. Homes in disrepair lower the value of the properties around them, and Connecticut homeowners can ill afford to lose more equity in their homes.
Townspeople should have the option of filing anonymous complaints. Officials can then judge whether the complaint is valid or only in the eye of the beholder. Why breach the peace and create enmity by making complainants identify themselves?
If towns won't help homeowners, the Web will. SeeClickFix.com is a free website where residents can anonymously report on eyesores, potholes, even drug deals, and document them with photos or videos. It was invented by a New Haven native who was fed up with a problem on his street, and it has spread nationwide.
Check out, for example, the photo of tires dumped under the I-84 highway overpass on Capitol Avenue in Hartford. It was submitted by "Scott" and has drawn several comments. It's still not fixed, but local and state officials are now clearly on notice.
It's not always easy for towns and cities to find the owners of makeshift dumps, abandoned homes and closed businesses and persuade them to mow the lawn or remove the tires. The General Assembly, recognizing this, unanimously passed a bill this summer creating a tracking system for owners of empty, foreclosed buildings. It also lets towns go after the financial institutions that hold title to disheveled, ignored properties.
That's great. Go get 'em.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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