NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The city of New Bedford has come up with a new way to address its housing crisis.

Mayor Jon Mitchell said the city is hiring for a new role in the housing department that will focus on putting empty properties back on the market.

“This will be somebody who will be calling folks at the banks that have houses in foreclosure, saying, ‘Tell me the status. How long is it going to take?’ Same thing with probate court,” he said.

As first reported by The New Bedford Light, the city has roughly 400 buildings that have been sitting vacant for years. Many are blighted and becoming an eyesore in neighborhoods.

“We know that there are a lot of people that are paying more than they’d like in rent every month. I believe there’s about 30 single-family homes for sale in the entire city right now. It’s tough out there,” said Joshua Amaral, the city’s director of housing and community development.

The official job title is Vacant Property Development Manager, and Mitchell said the right person will essentially be an “agitator in chief.” The city hopes to fill the position in the coming weeks and see results over the next few years.

“Some houses are just tied up in probate court. You think of a widow or widower who passes and the house is being passed onto their heirs, and sometimes that takes a long time and sometimes it takes court proceedings,” Mitchell explained. “To thin,k if we have somebody in city hall who’s birddogging those processes all the time, just pestering whoever the decision makers are to get those properties back on the market, we’ll see some results.”

While the idea aims to provide much-needed relief for the housing crisis, it also hopes to make some neighbors happier in the process.

“Not only will it be great for someone to have the opportunity to live in those homes, but it’s also good for the neighborhood in general to not have a house that’s maybe overgrown, or just poorly kept,” Amaral added.