Blog Archives

Provide feedback on how Phoenix addresses blight & zoning violations

The City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department is reviewing the code compliance process used to address blight and zoning violations to assure maximum efficiency and effectiveness.   The review process stems from direction provided by the Housing and Neighborhoods Council Subcommittee.  For more information or to request a form to provide feedback, contact Meryl Lawrence at 602-534-3607.

Department cuts could hurt Phoenix anti-graffiti efforts

[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — Graffiti could gain a foothold in Phoenix because of several proposed budget cuts.  Cuts in four departments could affect the city’s ability to respond to graffiti, often seen as a precursor to worse crime.  Neighborhood Services, Arts & Culture, Parks and Recreation, and Police have identified potential budget cuts that affect graffiti control.   “These are all quality of life issues that impact neighborhoods and the public,” said Erynn Crowley, deputy director of the Neighborhood Services Department.

In Neighborhood Services, three inspectors who spend time making sure stores have graffiti supplies locked up could lose their jobs.  The employees also check adult-business licenses, enforce mobile- and street-vending rules, and administer laws at special events.  The department now will react to complaints instead of actively checking for violations.  Savings are estimated at $421,000 this year and next.

In Arts, the public-art preservation program could be reduced.  One of its functions is to clean up graffiti and vandalism on public-art pieces.  The program, if the cuts are ultimately approved, would be reduced to half the size it was two years ago.  The cuts would total $60,000.

In Parks, ending a softball program would result in the elimination of maintenance staff in northwest and northeast Phoenix.  If the program ends in July, as proposed, the maintenance cuts will result in longer intervals for graffiti removal, among other items.  Savings are pegged at $179,000.

Finally, the Police Department is proposing the elimination of the bias crimes/graffiti squad. The squad investigates crimes related to prejudice and graffiti, which often is the result of gangs marking their territory. Savings in the department would total $710,000.

Altogether, the cuts would target 15 jobs and save $1.4 million.   [Note: Read the full article at Department cuts could hurt Phoenix anti-graffiti efforts.]

Big problem for Phoenix: Abandoned homes

[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Business Gazette] — Uncut weeds, graffiti, outdoor piles of junk: These are the norms in the world of blight remediation.  But a new, potentially more dangerous problem has emerged as the economy has declined.  Vacant homes, usually the subjects of foreclosure, are keeping the city’s team of 43 blight inspectors on their toes.

At a recent Neighborhood Services Department presentation of its program, Put the Diamond Back Into Your Neighborhood, about 20 people showed up at the Paradise Valley Community Center to hear what the city offers and to share issues they are facing.  Of those who spoke, each was concerned about abandoned homes, whether down the street, on the next block, even next door.

The concerns were different from the kinds of things Neighborhood Services inspectors usually see. Vacant homes often present a combination of more common violations.  “It is absolutely a growing problem,” said Patrick Ravenstein, a neighborhood-preservation supervisor who presented the program.

He said the department’s normal concerns are related to trash and debris, outdoor storage, untamed or dead vegetation, broken fences, junk cars, vehicles parked on surfaces that are not dustproof, graffiti, and open, vacant structures.  He pointed out that residents can play a big role in keeping up their neighborhoods when those kinds of problems crop up.

Some neighborhoods do quarterly cleanups, which the city supports with tools and trash bins. Some groups have landscape crews that assist with maintaining properties for people who are unable to do so. Individuals get involved by painting over graffiti, with supplies from the city.  A new program from the city is Blight Busters, which trains individuals or groups to lead neighborhood efforts.  [Note: Read the full article at Big problem for Phoenix: Abandoned homes.]

Phoenix Graffiti Busters and Good Neighbor programs win national recognition

[Source: City of Phoenix] — Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department’s “Graffiti Busters” program took the top prize in the Physical Revitalization & Beautification category of the 2009 Best Neighborhood Program Awards, at the Neighborhoods, USA conference in Spokane, WA.  The department’s “Good Neighbor” program placed third in the Social Revitalization/ Neighborliness category.  “We are proud of the impact these two programs have had on the lives of the residents of Phoenix,” said Jerome Miller, director, Neighborhood Services.  “This national recognition honors the cooperative spirit of Neighborhood Services staff and residents, working together to make Phoenix the best it can be.”

The “Graffiti Busters” program was created as a partnership between department staff and residents to identify and remove graffiti as fast as it appears.  Last year, department staff removed more than 52,000 tagged sites.  Staff also trained residents and provided the tools necessary to help in the fight.  The “Good Neighbor” program was created to inspire residents to participate in neighborhood improvement projects through a series of educational & self-awareness oriented classes and workshops.

Neighborhoods, USA is a national nonprofit organization committed to building and strengthening neighborhood organizations.  For more information, click here.

Phoenix receives $39 million to fund neighborhood stabilization program

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The city of Phoenix received a $39.4 million contract for Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), passed by Congress last year, the fifth largest funding allocation among U.S. cities and counties. The first phase of the Phoenix Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) offers low cost loans of $15,000 to assist with down payment and closing costs for eligible homebuyers that purchase a foreclosed home as their primary residence.  There are federal eligibility requirements that must be met under this program for the house and the prospective homebuyer. For example: a family of four can earn up to $77,050.  The house must be foreclosed and the property holder willing to discount the price.  The homebuyer also must attend eight hours or homeownership counseling.  

The NSP emphasizes market driven strategies, partnerships, and leveraging to increase the number of properties that can be restored to productive use. Additional programs include buyer assistance with rehabilitation, acquisition and rehabilitation (including multi-family housing), demolition and redevelopment within defined areas of greatest need.  The city will be issuing a Request for Proposals in support of the NSP activities, specifically the more intensive programs for rehabilitation of foreclosed properties, later this month with programs being rolled out this summer.

Councilman Michael Nowakowski, chair of the Housing and Neighborhoods City Council Subcommittee, is ready for staff to put the funds to work for the residents of Phoenix.  “In the 2008 calendar year, more than 15,000 housing foreclosures occurred within the city of Phoenix.  These much-needed funds will help hundreds of residents and neighborhoods impacted by foreclosures,” said Councilman Nowakowski.

Click here for more information on this program and on the overall foreclosure impacts.  Additional information specific to the first phase also can be requested by calling the Phoenix NSP program hotline at 602-262-6602.

Phoenix neighborhoods can get anti-crime grants

[Source: Maria Baier, Phoenix City Council] — Neighborhoods registered as a Phoenix Police Block Watch or with the Neighborhood Services Department can get money to prevent crime. Neighborhood Block Watch grants range from less than $1,000 to $10,000 each. The grants fund new or existing programs that have an anti-crime component or safety program. The oversight committee will review applications and give an estimated $1.2 million to eligible neighborhoods. For information, contact the city at 602-262-6543 or by visit their website. Applications are due electronically by 4 p.m. on Friday, February 6, 2009.

Where should $40M in Phoenix foreclosure dollars go? Speak up by Nov. 26.

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix residents on the brink of losing their home won’t be rescued with the nearly $40 million Uncle Sam gave the city to deal with the foreclosure crisis.  The federal government awarded Phoenix the money in September based on the high number of foreclosed homes, subprime mortgages, and mortgage delinquencies in the city.  But the grant is meant to spur neighborhood stability, not bail out homeowners.

The city plans to use the money over five years to buy vacant single-family homes to rehab and sell, with incentives, as an owner-occupied home.  A quarter of the money is dedicated to buying and rehabbing multi-family homes for low-income rentals.  “This isn’t a prevention program,” Deputy City Manager Ed Zuercher said.  “It’s an after-the-fact program.  We hope at least 800 families see benefit from the program.”

Citizens have a chance to have a say over how the city plans to spend the money.  The Neighborhood Stabilization Program’s deadline for comments is Nov. 26.  View the plan online here, and then voice your opinion by calling 602-256-3302 or sending an e-mail.

Phoenix’s Garfield neighborhood subject of premiere video, Nov. 13

Garfield street with downtown Phoenix in background

The public is invited to attend the premiere viewing of the video, “Civic Engagement & Revitalization in Phoenix’s Garfield Neighborhood.”

  • Date: Thursday, November 13, 2008
  • Time: 5:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Place: Alwun House, 1912 bungalow at 1204 E. Roosevelt
  • Free; light refreshments will be served

A two year project by Marilyn Dantico, professor of Political Science at ASU, the video documents a small fragment of Garfield residents’ 22 years of concerted effort to drive its neighborhood revitalization and community building efforts.  Both the Department of Political Science and School of Geographical Sciences collaborated on this project, funded by the Arizona Humanities Council.  Dr. Dantico and students attempted to capture the tenacity of residents that created today’s safer and rehabilitated downtown historic neighborhood.  As a result of these resident efforts, Garfield was selected as Arizona’s first U.S. Department of Justice “Weed and Seed” site.  This program reinforced existing collaborative strategies with the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department and Police Department.

In between vintage housing footage, are spliced the remarks by Terry Goddard (former Mayor, current Arizona Attorney General), Jerome Miller (Director Neighborhood Services Department), Kate Krietor (Deputy NSD Director), and Roberto Frietz (Garfield Neighborhood Initiative Area Team Leader).  For more information about the project, click here.

On Nov. 1-3, watch PHX11 to learn foreclosure prevention tips

PHX11 viewers can learn foreclosure prevention tips by watching a one-hour special, “Foreclosures: What You Need to Know,” which features a panel discussion among housing experts. Representatives from Community Housing Resources of Arizona (CHRA), Phoenix Association of Realtors, and city of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department present options to avoid foreclosure and explain how to seek assistance from area housing counselors.  The panel also explores the advantages and disadvantages of short sales, plus the responsibilities of a homeowner who is in a foreclosure situation. In addition, questions from the audience are answered.

The program will air on PHX11 at the following times: 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1; 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2; 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 3; and 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3. PHX11 is the city’s award-winning, 24-hour cable news and information television station. The station has been providing news, information and entertainment for Phoenix residents since 1984. For additional program replay times, click here.

Nov. 1 workshop on how Phoenix neighborhood, community groups can obtain funding

Phoenix residents can learn how their neighborhood association or Block Watch can approach funding sources and obtain financial help for neighborhood improvement programs during a free workshop set from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 1, at the Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave.  Representatives from the Valley of the Sun United Way, Arizona Community Foundation, and the city of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department will provide practical tips on accessing funding sources and strategies to secure funding from them.

The workshop, “Building Financial Capacity,” also will include an overview of a competitive funding program sponsored by the city for neighborhoods with active associations or organizations. Participants will learn about eligible activities, who can apply and how to apply for the program, which is called the Neighborhood Enhancement Program. For more information or to register, call 602-495-0873.