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Increase code enforcement's effectiveness through targeting and streamlining
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Clarify property owners and maintenance responsibilities throughout the foreclosure process
Engage community groups and local officials to assist with monitoring and inspections
Resolve code violations quickly and effectively to reduce neighborhood decline
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Housing Authority
Local property information can help code enforcement departments identify at-risk properties in otherwise healthy neighborhoods and prevent community decline before it becomes pervasive. Communities without local property information systems can get a sense of their local needs using national data sources, such as the Market Strength/Foreclosure Risk Matrix available on this site, or can build data capacity for the long run through efforts such as the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP).
By considering property risks in the context of the local housing market or local neighborhood development efforts, communities can increase code enforcement’s impact. For example, communities can start to shift perceptions about a neighborhood by targeting code enforcement in areas undergoing revitalization as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) or through other community development plans. A targeted effort that brings an entire block up to code will have a more noticeable, and likely longer lasting, impact than simply responding to complaints. Communities can also increase the impact of code enforcement by focusing on compliance in neighborhoods with few vacant properties and relatively healthy housing markets. When most of the properties in a community are regularly maintained, improving the condition of
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Targeting Code Enforcement on Foreclosed Properties in Southfield, Michigan
Southfield, Michigan, a city in the Detroit area, is taking aggressive action to reduce the negative impact of foreclosed and abandoned properties. The Code Enforcement Department makes an effort to inspect foreclosed homes as soon as possible and board up doors and windows, if necessary. The City checks the foreclosure papers to identify the lender and holds the lender responsible for property maintenance. The Police Department also receives a list of foreclosed properties in order to increase patrols in the vicinity.
Targeting Vacant Properties Strategically in Baltimore, Maryland
An analysis of vacant properties and housing market strength in Baltimore found that around two-thirds of the city’s 16,000 vacant properties are in severely distressed areas that are unlikely to be revitalized in the near future. To have a noticeable impact and spur further revitalization, Baltimore Housing has decided to target its code enforcement efforts not on the areas with the worst problems but rather on transitional or relatively healthy neighborhoods with scattered vacant properties. Code enforcement will also partner with private developers doing major redevelopment projects in distressed areas to ensure that vacant properties in these communities are restored to code as part of a comprehensive community revitalization effort.
The city expects its new strategic approach to code enforcement to target 1,000 properties in transitional neighborhoods in its first year and increase the effectiveness of private development activity in 13 emerging markets within distressed areas.
The targeted approach to code enforcement is part of Baltimore’s comprehensive vacant properties initiative, Vacants to Value. Learn more in the Vacants to Value case study.
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Code Enforcement Tickets in Baltimore, Maryland
Until 2010, Baltimore City’s code enforcement process involved using litigation any time a property owner failed to comply with a violation notice. Faced with 16,000 vacant properties citywide, Baltimore Housing needed to reduce the time involved in bringing properties back up to code. The city streamlined the enforcement process by implementing administrative citations, similar to parking tickets, for failure to comply with a violation notice. Property owners are now only taken to housing court if the violations have not been resolved after several months and two $900 citations.
The new process allows the city to aggressively enforce its housing codes without spending as much time and money having lawyers bring every case to court. They expect that the new process will cut the average enforcement time in half.
The new administrative citation process is just one of the strategies Baltimore City is using in its comprehensive vacant property program, Vacants to Value. Learn more in the Vacants to Value case study.