City seizes mansion for unpaid taxes

(Gazette Photo by John Ruch) The mansion at 28 Alveston St.

SUMNER HILL—The City of Boston has seized a decaying mansion at 28 Alveston St. for unpaid property taxes in a rare move.

The City has done basic cleanup on the property and relocated two elderly residents into senior housing while a third remains as a tenant, according to Evelyn Friedman, director of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The owner has a year to pay the $50,000 tax bill and get the property back, she said.

“It was in kind of rough shape,” Friedman said. “It needed some work to bring it just to code.”

The Gazette was unable to locate the owner, Ellen C. Robinson, for comment. Friedman said Robinson did not live in the house, but is a family member of the residents, who are all related.

The City rarely seizes residential properties for unpaid taxes, giving the owners many chances over several years, Friedman said. The 28 Alveston property is one of only approximately three such properties currently held by the City, she said. It was seized about two months ago following a court judgment earlier this year.

The property has been in disrepair for several years, with the mansion’s paint peeled off, the lawn overgrown, and old cars with flat tires in the driveway.

“We do have complaints logged for the property being in disrepair and harboring animals,” said Lisa Timberlake, a spokesperson for the City’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD).

The reports include a May 4 complaint of general disrepair, and an Oct. 14, 2011 complaint that raccoons were living inside the house, Timberlake said. It is unclear whether the owner was cited by City inspectors.

Prisoner work crews from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department cleaned up the large yard last month. The City also performed some essential repairs, including roof fixes and asbestos removal, Friedman said. But, she added, the City will not do aesthetic fixes such as repainting the house.

Robinson has a year to pay the tax bill. Otherwise, the City will sell the property.

“We’d rather work with people and if we can find a way to accommodate them,” Friedman said, adding that it is “unclear” whether that will be possible in this case.

According to City records, the mansion sits on a 12,650-square-foot lot, and the property is valued at approximately $338,000 for tax purposes.

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