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  • Overview
  • Increasing Housing Supply
  • Dedicated Funding Sources
  • Land Use Regulation and Approval Reforms
  • Inclusionary Zoning
  • Regional Housing Target Enforcement
  • Ending and Preventing Homelessness
  • Systems-Level Racial Equity Analysis
  • Emergency Response Resources
  • Housing First
  • Master Leasing
  • Household and Community Protections
  • “Just Cause” Eviction Laws
  • Anti-Gouging Rent Regulations
  • Strategic Code Enforcement
  • Community Benefit Agreements
  • Community Power-Building
  • Community Ownership
  • Alliance and Coalition Building
  • Community Organizing
  • Tenant Organizing
  • Opportunity and Wealth
  • Mobility Assistance Programs
  • Rent Reporting
  • Reparations
  • Fair and Equitable Appraisals
  • Acknowledgments
  • Strategic Code Enforcement


    Housing conditions in neighborhoods greatly affect the overall health and well-being of residents. In substandard housing, residents can experience defective windows, floors, or stairs; inadequate heating and cooling; pests; and mold infiltration. Living in these conditions poses threats that lead to injury and illness for all residents, and they can impair children’s development. Residents of color with low incomes are exposed to these conditions more often, resulting in distressing disparities in health outcomes and life expectancy. This results from a history of racial and economic segregation, neighborhood disinvestment, and discrimination.

    Housing code enforcement is one of the primary strategies to improve the quality of housing and overall conditions of neighborhoods. Code enforcement entails the local government defining, administering, and enforcing housing codes that ensure safe and habitable housing conditions for all residents. Such standards can define levels of quality and functionality of plumbing, roofing, exteriors, appliances, and utilities. 

    States and local governments can codify these standards into law, establishing a baseline for housing quality with accountability for agencies and property owners. But many housing code enforcement agencies operate reactive programs that require tenants to file complaints with the local government. Tenants, especially those earning low incomes, those who are undocumented, and people of color, are less likely to report unhealthy conditions for fear of retaliatory action by their landlord. Further, reactive code enforcement that relies on punitive measures by code enforcement agencies—fees and fines— can be driven by stigma and bias along race and income. Such approaches lead to disproportionate and harmful responses for residents of color and residents with low incomes. 

    Strategic code enforcement is a proactive model that strengthens the capacity of code enforcement agencies to deploy their resources more effectively—selecting the right remedy for the right property and owner at the right time. Strategic code enforcement also facilitates neighborhood revitalization, strengthens community collaborations, and helps bring housing stock back into habitability. When code enforcement is implemented carefully, agencies can use reliable property data, community engagement, and performance metrics to target the areas of highest need, direct resources more effectively, and establish more equitable processes. 

    Examples of This Strategy in Action

    • New York State implemented the Cities RISE initiative (Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement) to increase the capacity of localities to implement strategies for code enforcement and neighborhood stabilization. The initiative injected more than $25 million across 16 localities to help localities implement plans for data analytics, develop policies and practices to support equitable outcomes, and collaborate with key stakeholders in their communities. 
    • As part of New York State’s Cities RISE initiative, Syracuse, New York, implemented the Community Ambassadors Program. The program hired four community ambassadors—resident leaders in their communities—to act as liaisons between tenants, landlords, city agencies, and services providers. They spearheaded efforts to educate residents about code enforcement, to provide assistance to residents in navigating systems to improve housing conditions, and to inform citywide policy solutions. 
    • Toledo, Ohio, launched a Lead-Safe Initiative to remediate lead in rental properties. A city “Lead Safe” ordinance was passed in 2016 (and amended in 2020) requiring property owners to pass an inspection or implement remediation of lead. The mayor set a 2022 deadline for properties to acquire Lead-Safe certificates, with an emphasis on properties identified as high risk. To assist in implementing remediation efforts, funding was made available to cover up to 50 percent of qualifying remediation costs with a maximum of $5,000 per unit. 



    Next intervention: Community Benefit Agreements