High Point, NC shifts to proactive code enforcement, using data to identify and inspect at-risk properties
Council members and City officials aimed to shift the balance of code enforcement away from strictly complaint-driven and towards a more proactive approach
Using BuildingBlocks, Code Enforcement combines data on tax delinquency, utility shut-offs, and more to surface potential nuisance properties before they become severely blighted
BuildingBlocks saves staff 20 – 30 hours a week, and has allowed the City to identify nearly $1 million in outstanding nuisance liens on tax-current properties
Known as the “Home Furnishing Capital of the World”, High Point, NC, has been steadily growing since the turn of the 20th century, at times by leaps and bounds. Despite the continuous gain, concentrations of poverty and disinvestment tied to areas of racial & ethnic segregation undermine the quality of life in specific communities. A 2016 report by the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) Center for Housing and Community Studies described the impacts of such imbalance as, “inter-generational lack of opportunity and little chance of upward social mobility…persons living in such areas are greatly disadvantaged.” High Point’s leadership, including Mike McNair, Director of Community Development and Housing, committed to changing this dynamic, and one of the tools they prioritized was proactive code enforcement to relieve the concentrations of blight stunting revitalization efforts.
Previous efforts to preserve housing standards had failed because they were unrealistic, unfocused, and unsupported by data. “We needed to mobilize our available resources effectively,” McNair said. He had Council’s buy-in on a proactive approach to identify and inspect properties based on key indicators of distress, and he recognized the importance of taking a data driven approach. A neighborhood segmentation study helped to identify areas in need of specific attention, but McNair wanted more granular targeting. His team might be able to act on a small fraction of properties within a target area. “We’ve got to find the right ones,” McNair explained. “The study was informative strategically, but not tactically.”
The tactical insights he sought required his team to combine neighborhood segmentation with parcel-level data points—tax delinquency, code violations & fines, calls for service, utility data, and more—siloed in different databases across multiple departments. Analyzing these financial, physical, and public safety indicators of stability would point McNair’s team to specific parcels, but the time and effort to continuously gather, clean, analyze, visualize, and report that data would have required the City’s Geographic Information Services (GIS) team to hire an additional full-time employee. Tom Tricot, the City’s GIS Manager who holds a PhD in Geography and multiple GIS certificates, stated, “this would have required about 20 – 30 hours a week of my time.”
“We’re able to find patterns in the data that we weren’t able to before, when we were dealing with strictly a reactive environment,” McNair explained. “This has really enabled us to be proactive with the way that we approach where we put the resources.”
Mike McNair, Director of Community Development and Housing
High Point deployed the company’s BuildingBlocks application to manage data integrations and streamline analysis. Tolemi’s understanding of municipal technology systems and pre-built connectors meant that data from across these siloed systems is seamlessly integrated and kept up-to-date on an ongoing basis without taxing Tricot’s team. Today, McNair’s department is using the tool to identify potential nuisance properties that were otherwise not on the department’s radar by combining filters for two or more years of tax delinquency, utility shut-offs, and numerous calls for service.
As a result, code enforcement can get ahead of property problems before they become severe and more expensive threats to the surrounding community. Additionally, McNair has taken a data-driven approach to aggressively go after outstanding fines owed to the City. Some owners avoid paying nuisance liens by staying current on their tax bills, but using BuildingBlocks, McNair was able to identify nearly $1 million in outstanding nuisance liens on tax-current properties. “We’re adding these liens to the County property tax bill and forcing their hand to pay us back or risk the County going after their properties.”