Property Data Used to Develop Targeted Strategies for Neighborhood Improvement

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 26, 2011

In Providence, the web-based urban land information system has been created to help community development corporations, city officials and others deal with problem buildings and develop targeted strategies for neighborhood improvement. The Providence Land Information System is an interactive database search and mapping application that contains data on every property in the City of Providence. Along with data on land and buildings from the Assessor's office, it includes data on foreclosures, utility delinquencies, and housing code and health code enforcement actions. In addition, the database contains the results of an ongoing citywide survey of unutilized and abandoned property.

A tool developed in 2005 allows users to create listings of properties according to any criteria they choose. For example, criteria such as the presence of code violations, tax delinquency, or Public Works Environmental Tickets for trash or illegal dumping can be used to identify properties for rehabilitation, demolition, or some other intervention. Search results can be organized by location so that small areas with similar property characteristics can be identified, and appropriate improvement strategies developed.

Users can pull down screens in the system showing detailed data (including photographs) for individual properties. Individual property records include a comments box, to enable users to write in their own observation about the property and a map viewer showing a map of properties surrounding the one selected, enabling the user to find descriptive information about them.

The tool is being applied by different types of users and recognition of the potential has motivated several new applications of the data in decisionmaking and program implementation. For example, the data are being used by the RI Housing Resources Commission to identify emerging foreclosure trends and by local CDCs to evaluate properties for potential acquisition. Staff from the Providence Plan are maintaining the system, including posting utilization/abandonment input from community partners, and providing trainings and responding to user suggestions.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Jim Lucht and Pat McGuigan of The Providence Plan. The Providence Plan was the Providence partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network coordinated by the Urban Institute, at the time of the story. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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