‘Home equity theft’ — in New Bedford and across Massachusetts (The New Bedford Light)

One company raked in millions of dollars in revenue by buying property tax debts from New Bedford and foreclosing on the property owners. Many of the property owners lost their houses — and all the equity in them — over debts of just a few thousand dollars or less. My analysis of a broad range of public records quantified the impact of so-called “home equity theft” in New Bedford and delved deep into the operations of a company that profits from it. After the investigation, New Bedford quietly decided to stop selling tax debts to outside firms.

Follow-up stories:
Local lawmakers condemn ‘home equity theft’ as city officials defend tax collection tactics
PODCAST: Making sense of the ‘home equity theft’ case before the U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court rules ‘home equity theft’ unconstitutional
What now? Supreme Court’s ‘home equity theft’ ruling kick starts change in Massachusetts
Legislature’s inaction on ‘home equity theft’ hinders city tax foreclosures
New Bedford homeowners sue over ‘home equity theft’


Anonymous investors building ‘real estate empire’ in New Bedford (The New Bedford Light)

An out-of-state company made big news when it bought a 24-unit apartment complex and gave tenants one month to leave. After I broke that story, I looked closer and found that the company, a real estate syndicate known as Terra Incognita, had been quietly buying properties in the city for years — while keeping the identities of its investors a secret. Experts say this anonymity can be bad for tenants.

Prior coverage and a follow-up story:
Dozens of New Bedford tenants scramble after buyer gives them notice to leave
Agencies, advocates rally to assist New Bedford tenants with eviction crisis
Ousted New Bedford tenants struggle to find shelter


Dangerous lead pipes carry drinking water to thousands of city homes. Is yours one of them? (The New Bedford Light)

When I called the city to ask about my own home’s plumbing, I was shocked to discover that they had a list of every lead service line and its location. I requested the list and made it into a searchable table and map. This story also covered a drastic drop in the number of lead service lines the city was replacing each year, and the high costs for homeowners who request to have their service line replaced. City officials were initially tight-lipped about reasons for the lag, but we continued to publish stories about it until they granted me an interview with their top infrastructure official.

Follow-up stories:
Council president Abreu urges action on New Bedford’s lead pipes, but it’s up to mayor
Lead pipe replacement slowdown: Blame it on workforce shortage, funding


More investigations

In Springfield, some people are losing their homes to a program intended to fix blighted property (GBH News)
Schools across the nation are getting hit with ransomware attacks. But they won’t admit how much it’s costing them. (The Daily Dot)
Buffalo schools were aware of security risks months before $10 million ransomware attack hit, records show (The Daily Dot)