New Orleans unveils new technology to track blight

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the launch of BlightStatus, a new technology tool that will let city residents and officials track blight. The tool was created with the help of the city’s Code for America fellows which are working in the city this year. Reducing blight in New Orleans is one of the Mayor’s top priorities and he enlisted the help of the fellows to find ways to manage it.

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. Residents, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, and City staff can visit to use the tool. Once there, users can search properties to view their current state and history. They can also create a “watchlist” of blighted properties to track their progress.

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 (NORA), 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.

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. 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, Mich.; Lexington, Ken.; Oakland, Calif.; and Baltimore, Md.

“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 the fight on blight.”

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).