New Data Dashboard Tracks Progress on Blight Reduction

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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New Data Dashboard Tracks Progress on Blight Reduction

Posted: 10/13/2017
How many blighted properties are there in Knoxville? Is the number growing or shrinking?

Those are two of the pieces of information you can find on a new online data dashboard the City has launched to measure and track progress on efforts to reduce blighted property. It is the first major new data initiative since Mayor Madeline Rogero adopted an Open Data Policy earlier this year. 

The dashboard is on the City’s website at http://knoxvilletn.gov/government/opendata/blighted. It includes charts and graphs tracking measures such as: number of identified blighted properties in the city; number of chronic problem properties remedied each year; number of inspections performed; number of structure citations; and more.

The Blight Data Dashboard began through work with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ “What Works Cities” initiative, which provides resources to help cities use data to track performance and provide public transparency for their operations. The new Open Data Policy was the first product of that work, and the Blight Data Dashboard is the second. The Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University provided technical guidance through that program to help launch the dashboard.

“This dashboard brings together data from several City departments to help us better track our blight reduction efforts and set goals to increase our effectiveness,” said Peter Ahrens, Director of Plans Review and Inspections. “The numbers give us quarterly and annual benchmarks so we and the public can chart our progress on multiple fronts.”

Cheri Hollifield, an Administrative Specialist on Ahrens’ Neighborhood Code Enforcement team, took the lead in developing the dashboard, with help from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee. The first step was defining “blight” in a measurable way.

“Before we could measure our efforts, we had to know what we were looking for,” Hollifield said. “Blight is one of those things that people tend to think they know it when they see it, but we had to be more specific about defining it for our purposes.”

The team settled on the following definition: “Any property in the city in violation of the City's structural codes or designated by the City's Department of Community Development as being a chronic problem property to the neighborhoods.” By those criteria, there were 1,243 blighted properties in Knoxville in 2016, and the City has set a goal of reducing that number by 2 percent this year.