The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), awarded the City of Warren a Community Challenge Grant in 2012. This grant is part of HUD's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities. The grant program is designed to assist communities in fostering reform and reducing barriers to achieving affordable, economically vital, and sustainable communities. TNP helped the City to apply for this grant and has been subcontracted to complete the work. The main goals of this project are to:
- Create a comprehensive property database that contains information on the condition of all houses and residential lots, with a particular focus on vacant homes and vacant land. This databases should be easily and regularly updated.
- Outline a strategy for dealing with vacant properties: demolitions, rehabilitation, land re-use.
- Encourage and facilitate vacant land re-use projects that benefit each community.
- Encourage and facilitate rehabilitation of vacant properties where possible.
The end result of the grant will be a set of neighborhood specific plans to address the problem of blight and to facilitate revitalization.
The first step is collecting data for each neighborhood. This has been an ongoing process. Below is an example of the type of information we collect in our parcel inventory and how we can use that information. We can use data like this to look at a single house, a street or block, a neighborhood, or the whole city. On the top is a an example of the data collection page and a picture, both of which go into a database. Below are examples of the types of maps we can create. The first showing a street with different parcels highlighted, the second is a map showing Board Ordered Demolitions throughout the city.
During our data collection, we felt it was important to let residents know about their projects and get their initial feedback. We did this through a first round of Neighborhood Discussions. We held one meeting in each of the four sides of the city, and a fifth meeting in the Central City area. We spoke with residents about the strengths and weaknesses they perceive in their areas of the city. We also spoke about what types of goals they have for their area. This was a very preliminary discussion and we will be continuing to have public meetings to engage residents in the rest of the process, starting with showing residents the data we have collected.
In the next step of our process, we will take data, similar to what is shown above, and present it to people in the neighborhoods. This will show what the neighborhoods look like from this fairly objective viewpoint. Then we can get feedback from people living in the neighborhood on how they feel the data reflects their experience, how their experience might be different from the data, and what they want to see happen in their neighborhood.
The last step is to combine all of this information and, with the help of residents, create a strategy or road map for each neighborhood to help make all of Warren's neighborhoods sustainable and vibrant places to live. The Community Challenge Project, because the grant provided by HUD is a planning grant, is geared specifically at the planning aspect of revitalization. Following our efforts to help create plans for each neighborhood (and while we create those plans to some extent) we will begin working diligently to help bring those plans to life and improve our neighborhoods.