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The New Orleans civic government and non-profit organization Code for America last week jointly launched BlightStatus. The new web application provides city residents an opportunity to catalyze urban restoration of blighted properties.
Blight is a major problem in post-Katrina New Orleans, with an estimated 35,000 abandoned properties depressing neighborhoods economically and visually. When a group of Code for America civic fellows worked with city officials to brainstorm potential solutions, they found the city’s process for reporting and repairing (or demolishing) blighted houses perplexing and opaque. To help streamline this onerous process, the fellows coded open source software that allows the crowd to pinpoint blighted properties on a map and receive updates on their statuses.
City residents are responding positively to BlightStatus, according to several Code for America fellows. While it’s unclear if the application will speed blight removal, the constant flow of information may prove comforting to residents previously left in the dark — no more unanswered emails or lengthy telephone calls to city hall.
Like all Code for America software, BlightStatus is open source, so other individuals and cities can reappropriate the tool for their own purposes.
In 2010, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu promised to renovate or demolish 10,000 blighted properties by 2014 — a goal, he says, the city has nearly reached.
We’ve reached out to the BlightStatus team for more information. We’ll be sure to bring that to you as soon as we have it.
UPDATE: Upon further investigation, BlightStatus does not (currently) feature any crowdsourcing-related functionality.
"BlightStatus actually doesn't leverage crowdsourcing at all in its functionality, but it does support collaborative offline action, and fosters a more productive conversation between government and citizens about a notoriously complex and divisive issue," commented Alex Pandel, a Code for America fellow. "We definitely would like to allow the crowd to upload relevant supplementary information to the site (such as photos or any other information that the city doesn't have about particular properties) to create a richer information resource for everybody, but we just haven't been able to add that functionality yet."
So, for now, BlightStatus is purely an informational tool for the crowd, but not by the crowd. We apologize for any confusion.