Dan Geringer on Philly councilman Bobby Henon’s awesome Bad Neighbor Initiative:
DeFelice, a high-energy lawyer who has reported dozens of nuisance properties, said that Henon’s app “has put a level of shame on bad neighbors.”
“And the shame game works,” he said. “The days of knocking on someone’s door and asking them to clean it up are over because if you say, ‘Hey, man, your place looks like s—,’ they might punch you in the mouth.”
Henon, who introduced his CityHall App last spring and quickly saw hundreds of Northeast residents download and use it, discovered that when property violations go viral, most offenders cave. If they don’t, he’ll summon them to public hearings and alert Licenses & Inspections – which is never good news for a noncomplying city property owner.
Anthony Cancelliere responded immediately after Henon called him out publicly for $24,449 in tax delinquency on two of his dozens of Northeast properties, and 106 code violations that generated 38 neighbor complaints.
“I’m really glad this happened because I had no clue,” Cancelliere told the Daily News. “I’m a Mayfair guy, not somebody who lives in Jersey. My office is a block away from the councilman’s. I called him right away. I paid the taxes.
I’m all for legislative strategies to attack blight, but this kind of norm-based approach seems to work pretty well too. One thing landlords care about is being tightwads about property repairs, but they are also human beings who care about their reputations and status in the community, and clearly are not unmoved by public embarrassment.
The other feature of this approach is that it’s pretty friendly to personal liberty. It’s not so much a government intervention as it is lowering coordination costs for neighbors to deliver a good old-fashioned scolding.