The blight problem in the city of Erie is well documented.  But Erie News Now has learned that the city is about to take that documentation up a notch.

Anyone can city blighted properties by just driving around.  We found Rod and friends working to fix a blighted East 10th Street home he bought at sheriff's sale.  Neighbor Santina Elamin said the investment he's making will only pay off it the people who move in take care of the property. "If you build a house you have to rent to the nice people...the person you know who will really keep the house clean too."

As part of his Activating Our Vision plan, Mayor Joe Schember wants to cut open code violation cases in the city by 10%, reduce the number of unsound rental properties, and equalize property values in the city and county.

Students in a Gannon University internship class will be training on a Survey 1 2 3 app to gather data on every city property.  The app will help students follow a check list to document whether the home is occupied or not and enter data on the condition of every thing from the chimney, to the roof, gutters, railings and more.

According to City Planner, Kathy Wyrosdick, "It's going to be based on code enforcement input, they actually helped design the training manual and the training and the app--we're going to be doing it with a smart phone app that will be tied with the Erie County data center."

Gannon University students have helped in data collection projects before, taking what they've learned in the classroom about geographic information systems into real world applications.  "We also see our students are really interested in being included in projects, Gannon University Director, Community and Government Relations said. "They don’t want to just study them, they want to learn about them and then be part of the solutions." 

For this project, they'll be paid through a grant from the Erie Community Foundation. "We hope that teaches them also about the importance of civic engagement that issues around neighborhood development and urban cores exist no matter where they live," Ramalho said. It also gives them some real world experience to apply to any major whatever their major is."

The goal is improving city properties, even before there's a complaint. "It makes this system much more proactive rather than reactive and will help us address some of these blighted properties that are bringing down neighborhoods," Kathy Wyrosdick said.

Mayor Joe Schember said the data on just how many homes have blight, will make a difference in helping the city set goals and metrics to tackle the problem. “It will be available online. anybody will be able to see it and obviously our goal is to reduce the number of blighted homes," Schember said. "So once we know the number we’ll be setting a goal that we want to achieve by the end of next year by the end of 2021."

City officials hope that Gannon students can complete the documentation of all city properties by the end of the semester. They hope to complete the survey every two years to keep the data current.