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Mount Vernon takes the fight to “zombie” homes with BuildingBlocks

Mt Vernon, NY, USA
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Goverment Champion

City Attorney, Code Enforcement, City Manager's Office

Project Status

Operational since 2017

Challenges Addressed

Open Data
Systemic Stressors
Housing & Affordable Housing
Buildings
Permitting
Digital Government
Process Improvement

Motivation

Smart city

Funding / Financing

State and local grants

Project Type

Technology
Tool

At a Glance

Mount Vernon had no single source of data to quantify or proactively identify distressed and Zombie homes. Using BuildingBlocks, the city was able to proactively identify and catalog the problem properties.

Problem Addressed

Like many communities across the country, the City of Mount Vernon, NY, was hit hard by the housing and financial crisis of the late 2000’s. Bank-owned foreclosures, properties abandoned by homeowners, and “zombie” homes vacated in the middle of the foreclosure process all took a toll on the City as they deteriorated, disproportionally affect its lowest income neighborhoods. A study by New York State Senators Jeff Klein and Jamaal Bailey estimated that bank-owned, abandoned, and “zombie” homes wiped out millions in property values in the City of just under 70,000 people. The first step for the City was to create a comprehensive list of vacant and abandoned properties.

City of Mount Vernon used/is using the BuildingBlocks data integration and management solution to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Unclear where to start, the City had a hypothesis that fire data would provide useful insights - the City had more fires than any other city in Westchester county. Using the BuildingBlocks application, which brings together data from across city departments into a single, web-based dashboard, the City was able to quickly generate a preliminary target list of properties with a fire incident, no subsequent building permits pulled for rehabilitation, and an open code enforcement case.

Outcomes

  1. The Owner Profile tool, unique to BuildingBlocks, enabled the City to to identify and curb bad actors who regularly do poor or un-permitted renovation work.
  2. Armed with a data driven approach, the City was able to formulate strategies for bringing these properties back to productive use.

Something Unique

The City discovered that many of the derelict properties were owned by a single LLC, cited numerous times for performing rehabilitations without a permit. With the pattern of behavior identified, the inspectional services team could closely monitor those properties and anticipate problems before they happen.

Who Should Consider?

Any city looking to better manage code enforcement, permitting and blighted properties.