Policy: Technology

Smartphone app to help in Detroit fight vs. blight

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News,Business,Detroit,Michigan,Technology

DETROIT (AP) — A smartphone app is the latest tool in Detroit's efforts to fight blight.

By contributing photos and updated information about derelict properties, the public will be able to help keep the Motor City Mapping project database current, the Detroit Free Press reported (http://on.freep.com/1y2DlDi ). The digital map of Detroit properties already helped assess the city's 380,000 real estate parcels for a May blight-removal task force report.

Staffers from the nonprofit Data Driven Detroit and the consulting firm Loveland Technologies, which created the database, are expected to start training community activists and others to contribute new information about neighborhood properties.

"Residents of the city and the city itself are going to be using the same set of tools to solve these problems," said Sean Jackson, an executive associate with Rock Ventures who is working on the database.

Up to now, Motor City Mapping has provided detailed snapshot of the city but the public couldn't easily contribute updated information. Now, people will be able to note the property's condition, its most recent sale price, whether it is occupied or vacant, and more. The app also will work on a tablet.

Detroit has worked for years to deal with blight, including vacant homes and buildings, and thousands of structures have been razed. For the Motor City Mapping project, teams drove by every parcel in the city to produce a digital map, including photos and building information.

In May, the blight task force said it found nearly 85,000 blighted parcels, of which 73,000 are residential structures. The study was part of efforts announced last year by President Barack Obama's administration to help Detroit.

The mapping effort is important, officials say, because those involved in the database only can conduct a citywide survey annually at most. In between those surveys, the condition of properties will change.

"As we're doing demolitions, as we're doing our nuisance abatements, it's going to be important that we're all working on the same data, and that that data is always up to date," said Charity Dean, a staffer with the Detroit Land Bank Authority. "This tool is going to help us do that."

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Online:

http://www.motorcitymapping.org

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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