By Meghan Cook at UAlbany’s Center for Technology in Government:
Urban Blight is a challenge that cities throughout the world deal with every day. Scholars and experts define it in numerous ways but essentially, you know it when you see it. Blighted and vacant properties consume seemingly endless resources, depress market values, and can affect public safety and economic development. What starts out as a small problem has a tendency to quickly change the climate of an entire neighborhood.
Cities have come to understand that the most effective programs and services to fight blight rely heavily on information sharing among departments, across government entities, and in partnership with community organizations. Coordinated action has been shown to make the most impact, but it works best when all entities are using the same up-to-date information about code regulations, property and owner information, and remediation strategies.
In New York State, the Cities of Schenectady, Troy, Amsterdam, and Gloversville have come together with the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany to address blight by building their capability to share information about property owners, properties, and the practice of code enforcement programs. Funded by the New York State’s Department of State’s Local Government Efficiency Program, these four capital region cities are working to address blight in their communities and across boundaries by identifying and defining the information that is most critical to share across the region and ultimately, throughout NYS. The idea is that the more access each city and each department within the city has to the best data, the easier it will be to combat blight.
Fixing the cycle of blight feels like an uphill battle for many cities, but to quote expert Allan Mallach, “Solving urban blight is dependent on data. If you don’t have good data – about the properties, the owners, foreclosure status, etc – you’re basically flying blind.” Cities will no longer be “flying blind” if access to critical information, such as chronic problem property owners, is shared among key stakeholders throughout NYS. As is the case with any information sharing effort, it’s no small task but NYS’s Capital Region cities are committed to establishing a culture of knowledge sharing so that they can work together to take action against blight.