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Administration Aggressively Aims to Reduce 10,000 Blighted Properties in 3 Years
NEW ORLEANS, LA – In keeping with his commitment to improve the quality of life for the citizens of New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu today unveiled a comprehensive blight eradication strategy which aims to eliminate up to 10,000 blighted and/or vacant properties over the next three years."I’ve held community meetings in every council district and have visited nearly every neighborhood since taking office and one thing is clear-- residents are ready for this city to get serious about addressing blight,” Landrieu said. “It threatens our safety, the value of our homes and our quality of life. It is imperative that we change our approach. We know that each neighborhood requires different approaches, which is why we are outlining a holistic blight strategy that can address the needs of our communities.” New, more aggressive enforcement will begin on November 2, 2010. “If you own a blighted property or have been cited in the past, consider yourself on notice,” Landrieu continued. “Get your property in compliance.”Mayor Landrieu also committed to working with the state Office of Community Development to eliminate the use of FEMA trailers in the city by January 1, 2011.Based on data from the U.S. Postal Service and Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, it is estimated that there are an estimated 50,000-60,000 blighted or vacant addresses in New Orleans today. This estimate—which accounts for the highest percentage of blighted property in the country-- includes both residential and commercial property.Mayor Landrieu, administration officials, City Council members, and community leaders made the announcement in front of a property in “imminent danger of collapse” in Central City. These “imminent danger” properties are a first priority for demolition. DATA-DRIVEN DECISION MAKINGHistorically, the City has had a number of challenges in addressing the blight situation. In the past, there had been no single definition of “blight,” no clear goal for blight reduction, poor data, and a fractured eradication and enforcement mechanism. One of the first measures the Landrieu administration took when developing a blight strategy was to start coordinating blight-tracking information systems. Currently, the City owns data for only a small subset of the existing blighted property in New Orleans. All data from multiple departments including Safety & Permits, Code Enforcement, Environmental Health, Sanitation, and the Fire Department will now be housed in one software system. By the first quarter of 2011, all relevant departments will begin using the Accela software system. This data will be shared across agencies and posted to a GIS blight map which will help city officials determine hot-spots and priorities for blight eradication and will help inform strategic deployment of resources. The City is also developing the capacity to integrate neighborhood data into our blight tracking system. Additionally, the city will convene monthly CitiStat accountability meetings with key staff, which will be open to the public, to monitor progress in meeting citywide blight goals. Those meetings are set to begin in November. Blight eradication tools and resources will be deployed in the most cost-effective way possible to ensure maximum revitalization opportunities.PRIORITIZING CODE ENFORCEMENT AND SHERIFFS SALESStarting November 2, 2010, the City will begin aggressively citing and adjudicating properties for blight. In keeping with Mayor Landrieu’s commitment to place-based development, code enforcement sweeps will be targeted within a five-block radius of open schools. Mayor Landrieu’s goal is to inspect over 1600 homes per month. As part of this more aggressive enforcement, hearings will no longer be rescheduled except in extreme supportable circumstances. Code enforcement and sheriff’s sales are the most cost-effective tools for seizing blighted properties and returning them to commerce. Unlike tax sales and sales of adjudicated properties, sheriff’s sales have no redemptive period and carry a clean, insurable title at the point of sale. Non-historic, non-salvageable properties should be demolished before sale of the lot, with demolition costs assessed against the properties.STREAMLINING ENFORCEMENT DEPARTMENTSThe City has hired Jeff Hebert, an urban planner, as Director of Blight Policy and Neighborhood Revitalization. He reports directly to Deputy Mayor & CAO Andy Kopplin. As part of the 2011 budget, the Landrieu administration has proposed consolidating the two departments which oversee blight enforcement—Code Enforcement and Environmental Health. Code Enforcement inspectors cite and enforce violations to structures, while Environmental Health has jurisdiction over lots. By January 2011, the departments will be consolidated, creating a unified, streamlined code enforcement agency. All code enforcement hearings will be managed and staffed by the newly consolidated Department of Code Enforcement and Hearings on a more regular basis. Deputy CAO Ann Duplessis will oversee this new department. Additionally, in an effort to reduce costs, the City will be piloting the use of pro-bono attorneys to serve as hearings officers for the remainder of 2010. Training sessions for these volunteer attorneys has already begun.The City is also in the process of building capacity to execute sheriff’s sales. LISC and the Vacant Properties Campaign has funded a position to help pilot an initial round of 35-40 sheriff’s sales, to be held by the end of 2010. The new Department of Code Enforcement and Hearings will have a remediation team dedicated to ushering properties to sheriff’s sales, ensuring that eligible properties are demolished or deconstructed and lots are properly mowed. Additionally, the City is working closely with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) to align redevelopment programs with blight eradication efforts. STRATEGIC DEMOLITION AND NUISANCE ABATEMENT The first properties slated for demolition are those in “imminent danger of collapse.” Apart from those properties, the City will use two programs as the bulk of the blight eradication strategy. Strategic Demolition, funded by $9 million in Disaster Community Development Block Grant (D-CDBG), will be initially targeted within a five-block radius of open schools, parks and commercial corridors. The City will also partner with local nonprofit organizations to deconstruct historic homes that are blighted.The City will use $3 million in D-CDBG funds for Interim Nuisance Abatement Program (INAP) properties which entails cutting severely overgrown grass and draining and filling swimming pools. The goal is to mitigate nuisance properties before they need to be demolished. Long term programs would include an expanded Lot Next Door program which will enable responsible property owners to purchase adjacent blighted property and bring it into compliance precipitating revitalization of neighborhoods block by block. A NEW WAY FORWARD In all, Mayor Landrieu is moving forward aggressively to reduce the blighted housing stock in New Orleans and partner with neighborhoods to rebuild more sustainable communities.“Blighted properties represent a remarkable opportunity for community development, economic growth, and neighborhood stability,” concluded Landrieu. “But it’s going to take a holistic, all-hands-on-deck approach to successfully tackle. Significantly reducing blight, as we are prepared to do with this new strategy, will help catalyze neighborhood revitalization and economic development across our beloved city.” To view a powerpoint of the strategy click here.
Page last updated: July 01, 2011
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