The recent financial crisis impacted cities across the country in many ways, but the City of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, was prepared, using Cityworks, to track and manage vacant properties created by the onslaught of foreclosures. With accurate information, staff was able to organize timely inspections, maintain properties, and share information to effectively maintain the overall quality and sustainability of the community.

Coon Rapids experienced upwards of 600 property foreclosures per year since 2008. This rate in vacant properties presented difficult challenges, from frozen and ruptured water pipes to overgrown yards. Spreadsheets were no longer an option for tracking vacant properties.

“We use the (GIS) map as our go-to source for anything that’s going on,” said Cindy Hintze, Administrative Specialist for Coon Rapids. “When we’d get a phone call about a property, the first thing we would do was pull up our map and see if we might have other things going on there.” Hintze saw that Cityworks could be used to manage foreclosed properties, maintaining them as assets, rather than allowing them to become liabilities.

Work orders provided valuable data on the history of each property—when issues occurred, how they were fixed, what was observed during inspections, and much more. The solution also helped the city track and fix problems with rental properties.

These issues affect property values and the quality of life for neighborhoods everywhere. Coon Rapids found that the inherent GIS-centric nature of Cityworks helped paint a clear picture of which properties were problematic, where they were, and what issues related to each. Work orders for VACANT, RENTAL, LONG GRASS, and other Code enforcement issues were attached to the property, while tasks within the work order tracked resolution activities. For example, a vacant property might be scheduled for water shut off which would include tasks for shutting off water service, communicating with the owner/agent, any necessary abatement, property status, etc.

“Landlords need to run a good business,” said Hintze. “If not, we need to respond to that so the neighborhood doesn’t deteriorate. 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.

“We can easily show city council what’s going on in neighborhoods, because all this information is tied to the address point. Together, Cityworks and ArcGIS (Esri) have sustained Coon Rapids through the foreclosure crisis and we look forward to how these programs will continue to benefit us in the future.”

“Cityworks is being used to meet a wide variety of business needs across a diverse array of organizations,” stated Brian Haslam, President and CEO of Azteca Systems. “Coon Rapids’ use of Cityworks to manage vacant properties through the foreclosure crisis, and extending that use to rental properties, illustrates that perfectly. Cityworks is about making the maintenance and management of critical assets, infrastructure, and property affordable and effective, and ultimately helping our clients sustain safe, livable communities.”


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