Coon Rapids, Minn., is 20 minutes north of Minneapolis and has 61,000 residents. The city is using GIS to help track and maintain vacant properties created by the foreclosure crisis. The city has had between 450 and 600 foreclosed properties per year since 2008. The sudden rise in vacant properties presented a difficult challenge for the city, as water pipes burst, grass went uncut, and increased efficiency was needed to organize repair work. GIS helps the city preserve vacant properties — maintaining them as assets rather than allowing them to become liabilities.

The increase in vacant properties threatened the property values and quality of life for many neighborhoods. By using GIS to get a clearer picture of where these properties are and what is happening on them, the city is better able to mitigate the issues. “We use the map as our first go-to source for anything that’s going on,” said Cindy Hintze, administrative specialist for the city. “When we get a phone call about a property, the first thing we do is pull up our map and see if we have anything going on there.” The maps 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.

The city uses Esri ArcMap and asset management software from Cityworks, an Esri partner. By displaying all the data on a map, 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.

by Cindy Hintze, Coon Rapids GIS via Government Technology