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Operation Slumlord signs go up in Ellicott District

The two vacant houses on the first block of Southhampton Street are considered problem properties. Sidewalks are not cleared of snow. Some windows are boarded up. Others are broken.

That's why they are among 10 buildings targeted by Operation Slumlord. The campaign seeks to hold landlords and homeowners of the most dilapidated properties in the Ellicott District accountable.

It started last summer when Buffalo Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen asked Ellicott District residents to call his office with the "worst houses on their street," said Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District. Pridgen's office vetted the properties, and the landlords and owners were contacted about their plans for the properties.

On Thursday, Pridgen and workers from the city's Department of Public Works, Parks and Streets installed an Operation Slumlord sign at the properties on the first block of Southampton Street, which have the same owner. The sign contains the owner's name and address.

Of the 10 properties originally identified, two buildings have been demolished and the owners of four other homes have begun repair work and upgrades, Pridgen said.

Housing code violations at the Southampton Street houses as recently as April 2018 included boarded-up windows and doors, overgrown grass and weeds, trash and debris strewn in the yard, missing handrails on exterior stairs, missing interior walls and ceilings not being maintained.

Operation Slumlord signs went up this week at three other properties, including two other properties on Southhampton Street and one on the 600 block of Woodlawn Avenue.

The property owner for each property where a sign was installed will be billed for the work, Pridgen said.

The two structures that have been demolished were on the 300 block of Carlton Street and the first block of Sherman Street.

Problem properties like the ones on the Operation Slumlord list cost taxpayers, Pridgen said.

"With the small amount of money that we have in the City of Buffalo, we have to send teams to clean up or demolish them after they've been neglected," he said. "And these are not people who have fallen on hard times or are seniors, who may be low-income. These are people who obviously have the wealth to fix up some of these properties because some of them have lawyers, and my feeling is if you're going to pay a lawyer to represent you in court, you could pay someone to come out and fix these properties, put the paint on these properties, clean them up.

"If they don't take care of properties, it affects the whole neighborhood," Pridgen said.

The Operation Slumlord properties have not been on the city's Foreclosure Auction list, which is for properties that are in arrears on taxes, sewer fees and water bills, Pridgen said.

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