NEW ORLEANS, LA —Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Code for America announced the launch of BlightStatus, a new interactive online tool for residents to track the progress of blighted properties within the Code Enforcement system in New Orleans.
“For the first time in the City of New Orleans’ history, residents will be able to review up-to-date property information directly from City records without stepping foot inside City Hall,” said Mayor Landrieu. “BlightStatus will greatly improve our work with neighborhood groups and individual residents in our fight on blight. I’d like to thank Code for America for working with our team to help continue to improve customer service with residents.”
Anyone with access to the Internet can visit http://blightstatus.nola.gov to:
search for any property to view its case history in a clear and simple format;
create a “watchlist” to track the progress of multiple properties;
receive email alerts whenever a property on your “watchlist” moves forward in the blight process;
analyze blight citywide or down to the block level using interactive maps and charts; and
learn more about the blight process itself at the Help Center.
Reducing blight citywide is a top priority for Mayor Landrieu, and BlightStatus is the latest incarnation of the City’s ongoing efforts to increase efficiency and transparency around this issue.
In 2011, Code for America announced that the City of New Orleans had been selected as one of eight cities for its 2012 national fellowship program. BlightStatus was conceived of and developed throughout the course of 2012 through this innovative partnership between The City of New Orleans, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, and Code for America. The project’s direction was directly influenced by firsthand feedback from local residents and community organizations, which play a vital role in the City’s efforts to reduce blight.
“We met countless community members who spend hours of their limited free time trying to make sense of complicated City datasets to get an idea of where they can pitch in to fight blight in their neighborhoods,” explained Code for America fellow Alex Pandel. “The City granted us access to their internal data systems so that we could weave this information together to tell clear and cohesive stories about blighted properties, so that those precious volunteer hours can be better spent.”
In addition to the City of New Orleans and NORA, BlightStatus is being supported by the Open Society Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF). The total cost of the program, including salaries and site development is $300,000. The Open Society Foundation provided a $150,000 grant. The GNOF's Metropolitan Opportunities Fund and the Community Revitalization Fund, supported in part by the Ford Foundation, provided $125,000 and the City provided $25,000 toward the remaining amount as a local match.
“We are excited to support this effort that brings additional expertise and resources to New Orleans," said Ellen Lee, Sr. vice President of Programs at the Greater New Orleans Foundation. "Well beyond the immediate application in the fight against blight, we hope to have laid the groundwork for the infrastructure that allows better data sharing and integration across multiple city departments and agencies.”
The City's work with CFA on BlightStatus is already becoming a national model. Several cities across the country have demonstrated interested in using BlightStatus in their cities, such as Macon, GA; Detroit, MI; Lexington, KY; Oakland, CA; and Baltimore, MD.
Nearly two years ago, Mayor Landrieu announced a new, aggressive blight strategy aimed at reducing the blight count in New Orleans by 10,000 properties by 2014. A recent study released by The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center showed that blighted properties have been reduced by approximately 8,000 addresses since 2010. The study attributed the reduction in part to the focused efforts of City agencies to bring properties into compliance by prioritizing aggressive code enforcement and code lien foreclosure sales.
Recently, the City’s blight strategy was named a 2012 Bright Idea in Government by Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, and was awarded the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary’s Award at the 2012 Council on Philanthropy Conference for its public-philanthropic partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) and the Center for Community Progress (CCP).
Residents who need to report a blighted property are asked to call the NOLA 311 customer service hotline. Dial 311 from any phone based in New Orleans or toll free at (877) 286-6431.
About Code for America
Code for America partners with local governments to foster civic innovation. Through its Fellowship program, Code for America embeds developers and designers in city governments to collaborate with municipal leaders, for a year of service. Founded in 2009, Code for America held its inaugural fellowship in 2011. This year Code for America has connected 26 fellows with eight cities nationally. Through the Accelerator program Code for America supports disruptive civic startups, and through the Brigade program Code for America encourages civic participation by organizing local groups of civic technologists to take action in their communities. http://codeforamerica.org