September 19, 2016

Strategic Code Enforcement

Code enforcement refers to the legal and administrative processes and tools that local governments use to gain compliance with relevant state and local housing, building, and nuisance codes against individuals and companies responsible for maintaining blighted or nuisance properties (homes, businesses, vacant lots, etc.).

Communities are asking their code enforcement agencies and frontline inspectors to do more in an era of fiscal constraint in neighborhoods with ever changing conditions, markets and local conflicts. Having a wide array of different code enforcement interventions can work to address substandard properties, prevent them from becoming vacant, demolish vacant and abandoned structures, abate a wide array of public nuisances and recover the costs for doing so. If done right, an effective code enforcement program can improve housing and property conditions, support neighborhood revitalization projects, and contribute to the overall health of its residents.

However, only a handful of communities take a more proactive approach to code enforcement. As an emerging concept, strategic code enforcement allows communities to deploy their legal remedies and policy tools in a more effective/efficient way—targeting the right response to the right place at the right time. Strategic code enforcement is a systematic approach that relies on close inter-agency/inter-departmental coordination, data-driven tactic decisions, and strategic community development policies and programs.

Currently, VPR Network is working in multiple efforts to promote the idea of strategic code enforcement. Senior Fellow Joe Schilling is working with the cities of Memphis and Youngstown to help these jurisdictions be less reactive and more strategic about their code enforcement efforts. In August 2016, the VPR Network released its brief on data-driven systems for code enforcement.  In June 2015, the VPR Network also convened a roundtable and started a working group on strategic code enforcement as a vehicle for cross-city and cross-sector collaboration. If you want to be part of this working group, have a question, or want to learn more about this topic, contact us by clicking here or emailing