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Waterfront Historic Area League’s Statement on 305-307 Pleasant Street

WHALE is aware that there is currently anger and distress in the community surrounding the project that we have been working on at 305-307 Pleasant Street. We are deeply saddened to be the cause of any pain in our community, and we want to take the opportunity to address some of the concerns that have been raised, and hopefully offer some clarity and transparency about our organization and work.

The work we are doing at 305-307 Pleasant Street is under the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative. WHALE was legally appointed as receiver by the Massachusetts Southeast Housing Court to perform rehabilitation work on the property, which was determined by the Attorney General’s Office to be abandoned and in code violation. The goal of the Abandoned Housing Initiative is to rehabilitate vacant, abandoned properties to give back to the community and revitalize neighborhoods.

WHALE has been working with the Southeast Housing Court for over two years to rehabilitate the property. The process under the Abandoned Housing Initiative to conclude the receivership involves a public auction that is set by the Attorney General’s office. The auction amount to foreclose on the receivership lien is the amount that WHALE has spent on rehabilitation work. The Abandoned Housing Initiative auction process allows anyone to bid at the public auction and purchase the property. However, because of the significant amount of work that the property required, the receivership lien is greater than the market value of the property. This is not unusual for the projects WHALE in particular takes on under the Abandoned Housing Initiative. Typically, no one bids above or even close to the amount of the lien, thus the property is transferred to WHALE as the receiver. We then complete the rehabilitation work and sell the property, usually at a loss to our nonprofit. As a Massachusetts State Community Development Corporation, our goal for these projects is to rehabilitate homes and return them for homeownership to New Bedford residents, and in the case of 1060 Pleasant Street, for Veteran’s transitional housing.

To date, WHALE has independently completed three Abandoned Housing Initiative projects, not including 305-307 Pleasant Street: 318 Pleasant Street, which is located across the street from 305-307 Pleasant Street and whose neighbors petitioned us to save it, 148 Hawthorn Street, and 149 Allen Street. On each of these projects, we completed rehabilitation work and then sold the property. We did not profit on any of these projects. As a nonprofit, financial gain is not one of our objectives.

We strive to empower the community with homeownership opportunities and affordable housing. Our previous Abandoned Housing Initiative projects at 149 Allen Street and 318 Pleasant Street were both sold to income-qualified, first-time homebuyers. We believe that creating first-time homeownership opportunities and affordable housing helps to stabilize communities.

Although WHALE’s mission is to work on projects that revitalize, strengthen, and positively impact the community, we recognize that we have significant work to do in terms of outreach to strengthen our relationship with the community. To that end, we requested that the Attorney General’s Office further postpone the auction at 305-307 Pleasant Street, and we will be reaching out to the community to actively listen to their concerns and suggestions. We hope that we can begin the process of healing and understanding and continue with our mission to enhance community and economic vitality in New Bedford.

Please direct any questions about the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative and auction process to the Attorney General’s Southeastern Massachusetts Office. Their contact information can be found here:
https://www.mass.gov/locations/attorney-generals-office-southeastern-massachusetts

Please direct any questions about the Receivership Program to the Office of Housing and Community Development. Their contact information can be found here:
https://www.newbedford-ma.gov/community-development/

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