Student Fellowship

Neighborhood Preservation: Reducing Problem Properties Through Process Improvements

Project Area:

Affordable Housing & Community Development

City:

Springfield, IL

Reporting to:

Communications Director

The Challenge

Springfield’s Eastside neighborhood has an excess of dilapidated housing stock and vacant properties, which impact neighborhood character, reduce the quality of life for residents, and limit home ownership pursuits. In addition to high vacancy, this lower-income community of color faces higher rates of unemployment due to the weight of historical and racialized disinvestment.

The City of Springfield is committed to improving livability and addressing systemic racism in the Eastside community, and across the city, through investment in housing and improved operational processes to address vacancy. The city and two community partners own most of the vacant lots and properties on the Eastside of Springfield. The city has deployed a number of measures to address the saturation of vacant housing stock, including working with community housing partners and mapping city-owned properties to better track parcels intended for demolition. The city also expanded tax increment financing districts to provide a revenue source for development projects. Despite these efforts, the city has not significantly increased livability in this community due to many factors. The project presents an opportunity to pull multiple pieces together to get a better sense of housing stock for preservation or demolition, paths for local training in construction, partnerships with home rehab specialists, and ways to encourage new homeownership.

What You’ll Do

The city is looking for a fellow to develop operational recommendations for a housing development strategy to reduce vacant lots. The fellow will be expected to:

  1. Assess the current methods for quantifying the city’s vacant housing stock; review the city’s parcel database and identify improvements; work with housing partners to understand their data management process and link it back to the city’s database.
  2. Collaborate with the Office of Public Works, Corporation Counsel, and the Treasurer’s Office to analyze the outstanding list of problem properties and prioritize the neglected properties that may be acquired.
  3. Interview key stakeholders and community housing partners to ensure alignment with how the community views vacant properties, affordable housing, and home ownership; identify opportunities for future engagement.
  4. Develop a decision-making process or tool to help the Office of Public Works and Planning & Economic Development make consistent decisions on which properties should be tagged for demolition and determine what properties can be saved for rehabilitation.
  5. Create a process for collaboration with Southtown Construction Training Center (a local nonprofit that provides job training) to identify rehab projects for salvageable properties.

What You’ll Bring

Desired skills:

  • Flexibility, persistence, and understanding are the most critical skills and traits
  • Keen ability to apply data to inform complex decision-making processes
  • Data and policy analysis
  • ArcGIS or familiarity with other geo-spatial/mapping tools
  • Significant community development experience
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