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|Framingham inspectors find more illegal apartments||Thursday, February 21, 2008|
|D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429||Metrowest Daily News|
FRAMINGHAM - Increased cooperation with other town departments and additional inspectors have allowed building officials to turn up more illegal rooming houses and basement apartments in recent months.
Inspectors investigated more than 60 reports of illegal rooming houses from September to December, a minor spike over the previous four months, said Building Commissioner Michael Foley during a presentation to selectmen.
Reports of basement occupancy rose significantly in the final third of 2007, said Foley, going from the mid-teens from May to August to almost 40 from September to December.
Also going up during the same period were reports of illegal conversions for multifamily living and the illegal conversion of single-family homes, he said.
That increase coincides with the addition of two code enforcement officers, said Foley, and the expanded hours that now include nights and weekends. He says evidence of illegal living situations are easier to spot at those times.
Code enforcement became a major priority for Foley and town officials after a fire at a two-family home on Avon Street in January 2007 turned up evidence of at least 17 beds in the home. Dozens of rooming houses have been closed in the year since, including another one owned by landlord Murilo Da Silva.
Following a fire on Jan. 15, 2007, at 2-4 Avon St., Framingham officials found evidence of 17 or more beds in the two-family home owned by Da Silva, one of several landlords found to own multiple properties in town with too many people crowded into the houses.
"We're making progress, but we are having some successes," said Foley.
In 2007, inspectors investigated 199 reports of illegal rooming houses, resolved 85 of them, are still working on 82 others and found 32 were not rooming houses.
Last year, inspectors also looked into basement apartments, resolved 19 cases, are still working on 27 and found two with no basis.
"The data just keeps amazing me every time we see these updates," said selectmen Chairman Dennis Giombetti. "The pervasiveness is something I don't think a lot of us had realized."
To that end, Foley showed pictures of a recently condemned Belknap Road home that had a garage filled with piles of trash and several rooms in the home in similar conditions.
He also showed board members a since-shuttered Arlington Street shed that had been converted to living space complete with a kitchen and bathroom.
While many of the problem areas still come from complaints or on tips from other departments, inspectors are now able to be more pro-active in finding them, said Foley.
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