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Tool 3: Community Code Enforcement Partnerships

Tool 3: Community Code Enforcement Partnerships

Neighborhood residents and neighborhood-based organizations are a valuable and largely untapped resource in making code enforcement more effective. The great majority of residents and organizations want their neighborhoods to be better, safer and cleaner places. They are the city’s natural allies in the code enforcement process.

Residents and organizations can do many different things:

  • Identify and inventory vacant and problem properties;
  • Identify and report exterior code violations;
  • Work with property owners to foster voluntary code compliance;
  • Educate residents and owners on proper maintenance standards and obligations;
  • Follow up with property owners to determine whether properties are in compliance; and
  • Clean and maintain vacant lots.


Cities have followed different approaches in building community partnerships. In Fort Worth and San Antonio, Texas, the city trains neighborhood residents to be volunteer Code Rangers. These individuals identify code violations in their neighborhoods, and notify city officials. Property owners receive a courtesy letter seeking their voluntary compliance.

Learn about the Fort Worth and San Antonio Code Ranger programs


Cities can partner with neighborhood organizations around specific strategies. For a number of years the city of Detroit partnered with neighborhood organizations with respect to its program for boarding vacant properties. Neighborhood organizations submitted complaints about properties to Community Legal Resources (now Michigan Community Resources), which kept track and forwarded them to the city. This program, which was ended after it ran out of money, relied on volunteers.


The most ambitious partnership is the one between the city of Cleveland and community development corporations in the city. Under a formal partnership agreement, CDC staff survey their neighborhood to identify properties in need of inspection and abandoned properties, manage a process by which exterior “routine” complaints that come into the city hot line are forwarded to the CDC, which attempts to achieve voluntary compliance with the owner. “Priority” complaints, such as vacant and vandalized structures, fire damage or lack of heat or water, are still addressed directly by the city. If the CDC is unsuccessful, it refers the matter to the city. Unlike the others, this program requires funding, which is largely covered through the Community Development Block Grant program.

Go to a case study of the Cleveland Code Enforcement Partnership



Go to Tool 4: Working with Lenders