Coon Rapids, MN: A Sustainable Community

The City of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, is using Cityworks and GIS to help track and maintain vacant properties created by the foreclosure crisis. The city has had between 450 to 600 foreclosed properties per year since 2008. This sudden rise in vacant properties presented a difficult challenge for the city as water pipes burst, grass went uncut, and other problems accumulated due to the vacancies.

Increased efficiency was needed to organize repair work.  An Excel spreadsheet was no longer an option for tracking vacant properties.  Cityworks was already in use in the Public Works Department, and Cindy Hintze, Administrative Specialist for Coon Rapids, saw that the same software could be utilized.  Cityworks, coupled with GIS, now helps the city preserve these vacant properties—maintaining them as assets rather than allowing them to become liabilities. The solution also helps Coon Rapids track and fix problems with rental homes.

The influx of vacant properties threatened property values and quality of life for many neighborhoods in Coon Rapids. By using Cityworks and its built-in GIS capabilities to obtain a clearer picture of where these properties are and what is happening to them, the city is better able to mitigate issues associated with these homes.  An address point is used to attach all Cityworks code enforcement work orders to the property, including vacant, rental, long grass, and other yard and lot work order templates.  Tasks within the work order track information regarding the property. For instance, posting the property for water shut off, shutting off or turning water on, communicating with the owner/agent, abatement, property status, etc.

“We use the map as our go-to source for anything that’s going on,” said Cindy Hintze. “When we get a phone call about a property, the first thing we do is pull up our map and see if we might have other things going on there.” The work orders provide valuable data on the history of each property—when issues occurred, how they were fixed, what was observed during inspections, and much more.
GIS also helps the city track and fix problems with rental properties.  “Landlords need to run a good business, and if they’re running a poor business we need to respond to that so the neighborhood doesn’t deteriorate,” said Hintze.  “Rental properties need to be licensed each year, which may or may not include a visual inspection by our housing inspector.  The inspection process is based on how well the property is managed and whether issues have been found at the rental property.  Cityworks work orders help track the history of rental properties, licensing, inspections, communications; which also includes being used by our Police Department if police respond to issues at rental properties.”

By displaying all of the data on a map using Cityworks and Esri’s ArcGIS, the city can easily see the big picture—and the details. By mapping these properties, the city has made great strides in fixing issues, organizing inspections, maintaining properties, and even sharing information. “We can easily show our city council what’s going on in neighborhoods, because all this information is tied to the address point,” Hintze said. “Together, Cityworks and GIS have sustained Coon Rapids through the foreclosure crisis and we look forward to how these programs will continue to benefit us in the future.”

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