The population of Flint fell, from its peak in 1960, by more than 50% by 2018, leaving the city with many vacant homes and empty lots. Nearly 40% of properties in the city were blighted. City staff developed a blight elimination plan, but did not have the resources or data to carry out the plan.
The Solution: Flint Property Portal
The city, in partnership with Genesee County Land Bank, created the Flint Property Portal, which allowed residents to easily collect and report data about blighted properties. The web portal displayed citizen-generated data on property conditions, which helped residents improve and maintain blighted and vacant properties and enabled city staff to obtain and allocate resources to remediate blight in the city.
How it Works
The city’s Planning and Development Department created the Flint Property Portal, which could be accessed by residents via a website and a mobile app.
- The portal grew out of the city’s Neighborhood Inventories, a program through which the city provided training and helped community groups assess and report property conditions in their neighborhoods. Originally conducted with paper maps, residents have begun to use the portal to collect and submit data during the inventories.
- The city and Genesee County Land Bank hosted workshops to train citizens to use the portal and solicit feedback about the usability of the portal. City officials also regularly gathered additional feedback during existing meetings with city staff and community groups.
- The portal offered three main functions:
- Property Lookup: The portal contained a profile of every property in Flint.
- Property Update: Residents could report property changes to keep local officials informed and could also report their own work, such as mowing lawns and trash removal.
- Map Making: The portal gave users the ability to map property information.
- The city also supported resident-led neighborhood cleanups by providing crews to remove brush and fallen trees as well as illegally dumped tires and other large trash.
Community groups have completed a citywide assessment of all 56,000 properties in Flint.
- This data helped the city, in partnership with Genesee County Land Bank, apply for and receive a $60 million blight elimination grant through the U.S. Treasury Hardest Hit Fund.
- The grant funds have been used to demolish more than 4,000 blighted structures in Flint. More than 2,000 of those demolitions were the direct result of data entered by citizens through the portal. The Land Bank has planted low-growing clover in the cleared lots, which significantly diminishes maintenance needs and costs.
- Residents use the portal both to update information about properties and to help them care for their own neighborhoods. For example, some residents use the portal to contact property owners to get permission to mow the lawn. Community members have reported maintaining and caring for 690 vacant lots by mowing lawns and removing trash.
- Community members have submitted more than 100,000 property messages through the portal. City staff and organizations like the Local Initiative Support Community and the Ruth Mott Foundation use the data on a daily basis to make decisions and inform development strategies.
- The Neighborhood Inventories are one of several ways residents can use the Flint Property Portal to improve their city. Through the Neighborhood Planning Initiative, for example, the city helps community groups do an assessment of their neighborhoods using the portal data and create and implement a plan for improvements.