A month and a half ago, we announced the beginning of our TOP (Tenant-Owner-Proactive) Pilot for Code Enforcement. After its first six weeks, we have some exciting preliminary results to share with you.
The pilot has allowed our inspectors to interact more with tenants. Our two pilot inspectors have been using new technology in the field and establishing relationships in their assigned neighborhoods by meeting with constituents on a regular basis. Both of these changes have allowed the inspectors to schedule more interior inspections where they get to check the whole house, which has allowed them to identify more violations that directly relate to health and safety for our residents. Over the six week period, the pilot inspectors have been able to cite 46% more health and safety violations than our other housing inspectors that have a more difficult time getting inside properties.
Since this is a pilot on the Northside of the city, the inspectors have been making a concerted effort to connect with New Americans who live in the area. They have attended many ESL classes and community meetings where, with the help of translators, they were able to schedule 13 inspections with residents who otherwise wouldn’t have been served by Code Enforcement.
The pilot inspectors have also been conducting more outreach to property owners. This includes meetings and phone calls, which have allowed the inspectors to work with the property owners to address property issues before violations were cited. Over the six week period, the pilot inspectors had 30.6% more communication than the other housing inspectors due to the pro-active nature of this pilot. Normally, as complaints are phoned in, other staff members start the outreach before having an inspector involved.
The pilot inspectors are able to be more proactive as a result of the pilot strategies. By walking their neighborhoods, the pilot inspectors proactively identified 115 cases in the past six weeks, a 229% increase from other housing inspectors who currently have to use the majority of their time to respond to complaints.
Additionally, through the use of the new Building Blocks software, we were able to use property data on tax delinquency, occupancy, water meter status, and code violation history to identify properties for the inspectors to proactively check. They cited 20 new cases on properties that previously had no violations.
Through these changes, the pilot inspectors had an improved compliance rate of 57.7%, 18.2 percentage points higher than that of the other housing inspectors who do not currently have access to new department strategies and tools.
Not only do the numbers look good, but our inspectors have gotten some great qualitative feedback as well.
The directors for the White Branch Library’s ESL classes loved the pilot presentation and education around health and safety issues. They even thought they could make it a regular part of their curriculum. Without these meetings, many of the New Americans would not have known they could call Code Enforcement with their housing issues. At the ESL classes, the inspectors were able to set up inspections for multiple health and safety cases, including:
No heat violations, often in households with small children, one with a seven-month old baby;
Infestation of bed bugs;
Chipping and peeling paint violations;
Structural issues with a staircase.
Property owners and managers have also been happy with the program. Several owners who did not know the violations existed or who thought their contractors had fixed the issue appreciated being able to talk directly with our inspectors and recieve pictures of the violations in real time. Many times our inspectors were able to work with the owners to have the issue resolved before having to issue a formal violation, and for owners with New American tenants, our inspectors were able to be a go-between to get things fixed regardless of language barriers.
Our inspectors have also given the program good reviews:
“The pilot has really allowed me to become the best inspector I can be, to step up my work, and I think we can all push ourselves to be better.”
“The tablet has actually been really helpful. It’s great to be able to talk with property owners and send them pictures while you’re at the property.”
“I have found the [community] meetings to be very helpful by allowing us to educate New Americans about the Codes Process and identifying health and safety issues… I would like to schedule more in the future.”