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Rutland Houses Used For Drug Trafficking Will Become Affordable, Owner-Occupied Housing

Nina Keck
United States Attorney Eric Miller speaks in Rutland Monday about efforts to rennovate three dilapitated houses known for drug trafficking into affordable, energy-efficient, owner-occupied housing.

Thanks to an innovative collaboration, three rundown houses in Rutland known for heavy drug trafficking will be renovated to create more affordable owner-occupied housing.

United States Attorney Eric Miller says large amounts of heroin and crack were bought and sold at three houses located at 114, 116 and 117 Park Avenue in Rutland.

The traffickers were prosecuted, but the U.S. attorney says the out-of-state landlord, who owned all three properties, was not responsive.

Federal law allows for the forfeiture of property used to facilitate or commit felony drug offenses. It’s rarely used, says Miller, but his office filed suit against the landlord using the law.

As part of a settlement agreement, the City of Rutland waved outstanding taxes and fees and passed ownership of the forfeited homes to NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, a nonprofit organization that will renovate and sell the properties. 

Ludy Biddle, NeighborWorks' executive director, says new purchasers will have to live in the homes for a set amount of time and qualify financially.

"This is a win for the city of Rutland, which takes another really important step toward the reclamation of one of its most beautiful neighborhoods." - U.S. Attorney Eric Miller

Eric Miller announced the effort at a press conference Monday, standing alongside Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen, Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras, and others on the front porch of one of the forfeited homes. 

“This is a win for law enforcement, which has put an end to the crack and heroin dealing that formally plagued these properties,” said Miller. “This is a win for the city of Rutland, which takes another really important step toward the reclamation of one of its most beautiful neighborhoods. And this is a win for the nonprofit affordable housing community, which adds to the stock of owner-occupied housing here in Vermont.”

Miller says a larger message is also clear. “That landlords have a responsibility under the law to take reasonable steps to prevent known drug dealing from occurring in their properties.”

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
This house at 114 Park Avenue had been the site of numerous drug busts, but thanks to a collaborative effort between Rutland City, federal law enforcement officials and a local housing nonprofit, it will be renovated to create more owner-occupied housing in the neighborhood.

This is the latest in an ongoing effort to revitalize northwest Rutland, a neighborhood hit hard by drugs and crime where only about 32 percent of residents own their own home. 

Kimberly Moran, whose Park Avenue home is next to one of the forfeited properties, is one of them.

“We’ve lived on the street for 25 years,” she says. “We’re the only single-family owned home on the whole street. Everybody else is all apartments — they’re all renters. But having some more people being owners, it might be a big blessing."

Moran says as long as the new buyers are vetted carefully, she’s cautiously optimistic.

Local resident Edward Denton is even more enthused.

"A lot of people can't afford housing. Making these homes affordable is great." - Edward Denton

“A lot of people can’t afford housing,” he says. “Making these homes affordable is great.”

And these were some bad houses, he says, shaking his head. “Everybody knew drugs were being sold here,” he says. “You know, to take houses like that, that are confiscated, and turn it into something positive like that, it’s fantastic. They need more of that, they really do.”

NeighborWorks' Ludy Biddle says the repairs will cost about $140,00, which she says will be covered in a large part by a Vermont Community Development Program grant. If all goes as planned, she says the three houses will be renovated and on the market by the end of next year. 

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