Revitalizing New Orleans By Crowdsourcing Renewal

A new project called BlightStatus enlists the citizens of New Orleans in a quest to clean up its abandoned and blighted houses–and holds the government accountable for actually making changes. Blight was a long-standing problem in New Orleans even before Hurricane Katrina ransacked people’s homes and forced tens of thousands of residents out of the city for good, leaving their properties behind. This is the problem Code for America confronted when it sent a team of civic-tech fellows to work with the city earlier this year. In fact, New Orleans had two challenges with its renewable crop of blighted properties. These buildings were, quite visibly, marring neighborhoods. But the city also had a less visible information problem. Neighbors and community groups wanted to repair or demolish many of these properties–or at least find out where their owners had gone. But the city’s mechanism for reporting blight (or, in bureaucrat-speak: code violations) was messy and complex, involving multiple agencies, and no one could get any information from it. A web application called BlightStatus, unveiled just last week, allows people in the city to identify blighted properties and track what officials are doing about them. This is admittedly a technological fix, not a hammer-and-nails one. But when actual change is slow to come, information tends to make people feel better.

Fast Company

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