September 19, 2016

Strategic Code Enforcement

  • Courtesy of Brandon Dill, NPI
  • Courtesy of Brandon Dill, NPI
  • Courtesy of Brandon Dill, NPI
  • Courtesy of Brandon Dill, NPI

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 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.

As an emerging concept coined by Kermit Lind and Joe Schilling, strategic code enforcement allows communities to deploy their legal remedies and policy tools in a more proactive, effective, efficient way—targeting the right response to the right place at the right time. Strategic code enforcement includes 1) tactical decisions to resolve code enforcement issues at specific properties, and 2) strategic policy and programmatic decision that apply to entire neighborhoods and/or address broader policy and planning goals. Strategic code enforcement demands close inter-agency/inter-departmental coordination, relies on integrated data/real property information systems, and facilitates strong partnerships with community groups and neighborhood residents.

VPR Network is working on multiple fronts to develop, expand, and promote strategic code enforcement as the new standard for communities.

  • Projects:
    • Youngstown: A VPR Network team, led by co-director Joe Schilling continues to work with the City of Youngstown to institute, adapt and implement strategic code enforcement that matches the scale of the problem and expand local capacity.
    • Strategic Code Enforcement Management Academy (SCEMA): University of Memphis Law School will host two pilot training sessions for code enforcement managers, directors, attorneys, with guidance from Senior Researcher Joe Schilling and Professor Emeritus Kermit Lind.
  • Translation Brief on data-driven systems for code enforcement.
  • Working Group launched in June 2015, it serves as a forum for cross-city and cross-sector collaboration, research, and policy development.  If you want to be part of this working group, have a question, or want to learn more about this topic, contact clicking here or emailing