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December 9, 2013

Lawrence home prices rebound after 6-year slump

LAWRENCE — Atop the gate to Don Silva’s Victorian home on Franklin Avenue, just beyond the garden where he grows Concord grapes to make wine and flowering trees to attract hummingbirds, there’s a barbed-wire reminder of how much his Arlington neighborhood has changed since he bought the house as a newlywed 35 years ago.

“Just enough to aggravate them,” Silva said, referring to the wire he installed to keep out the burglars he said he’s confronted inside his home, along with the drug dealers and prostitutes outside. “Spend a few hours out here, you’ll see a few drug dealers. Another thing that kills a neighborhood — there’s too many rooming houses.”

Across the Merrimack River on Chester Street in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, there are no boarding houses, drug busts are rare and a barbed-wire fence would seem out of place where most homes have lawns and trees out front.

“I love it here. The neighbors are great,” said Brenda Rozzi, describing the cozy suburban feel of the street where she and her husband, John, bought a ranch-style home in 1999 and added a second floor when their daughter, Amy, moved back home.

“And the neighborhood’s safe,” John Rozzi interjected.

These two Lawrences — one barbed-wired and littered, the other comfortable and trim — played out between the numbers in a report the Board of Assessors released last week detailing shifting home values in the city and how they will impact property taxes in the upcoming fiscal year.

The good news for the Silva, a retired city water plant worker, and his wife, Gladys, is that property taxes for single-family homes like their’s in the Arlington neighborhood — the city’s poorest — will be the lowest in the city next year, and among the lowest in Massachusetts. The new tax bill on the average single-family home there will be $2,003 based on the report Chief Assessor Breda Daou delivered to the City Council Tuesday.

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