Good data feeds good policy – yet data on the location and condition of vacant properties in Trenton was incomplete and out of date. This summer, Isles worked with the Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign, the Rutgers Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability, the City, and the community to survey every property in Trenton. Volunteers used a smartphone app to record the condition of vacant properties.
Vacant properties in Trenton – the numbers
3,566 fully vacant buildings — that’s 15% of all the buildings in Trenton
339 are owned by the City of Trenton (9%)
2,397 vacant lots
921 are owned by the City of Trenton (38%)
5,963 vacant properties altogether (21% of all properties in Trenton)
The data is available for download at www.restoringtrenton.org, which displays the data we collected on an interactive, searchable map. Isles will update the data regularly, in consultation with the relevant City departments, and will be expanding the site with additional datasets and functionality.
- The Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign (TNRC) is a coalition of Trenton stakeholders, chaired by Isles, that have been working against the problems caused by vacant and abandoned properties since 2011. See www.restoringtrenton.org.
- The Rutgers Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability (CUES) provided data collection, mapping, and field expertise; as well as geospatial analysis and modelling. See http://cues.rutgers.edu/.
- Survey team
- 11 interns from CUES
- 2 interns from the Isles Youth Institute Americorps program
- 5 high school volunteers through the Center for Faith Justice
- Over 30 community volunteers
- Hosts: The survey team was hosted by 17 organizations, businesses, and individuals as it moved around the city, with support offered by many others. A full list is at www.restoringtrenton.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
I heard you can buy buildings for a dollar. Is that true?
As part of the City of Trenton’s vacant property strategy, the City will establish a homesteading program for first time homebuyers or non-city residents to purchase property at a nominal price. Isles does not run this program, and does not have any additional information on it at this time. Once the City releases more information, it will be posted on restoringtrenton.org.
Who is the Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign (TNRC)?
The TNRC is a coalition of local and regional stakeholders convened by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey in 2011 around the issue of abandoned properties in Trenton. Member organizations include Isles (chair), the Trenton Area Habitat for Humanity, New Jersey Community Capital, the Trenton Historical Society, Pennrose Properties, Shiloh CDC, New Jersey Future, residents, and representatives of local civic associations.
How much did this cost and how was it funded?
This project cost approximately $75,000 in grant funds from the Rita Allen Foundation, which covered data and equipment, staff time at Isles and CUES, and supplies.
How long did this project take?
With the help of efficient technology, the survey effort was completed in just seven weeks.
Will the data be updated?
Yes. While we have no plans at present to repeat the citywide survey, Isles will regularly update the baseline data we collected here based on information from stakeholders, the City of Trenton, and you.
What do I do if I see an error or want to report new information about a property?
The website is a work in progress. For now, please use the reporting form at www.restoringtrenton.org for comments and suggested edits. We will periodically verify the information we get and ensure that necessary edits get reflected. In the near future, we will expand the capabilities of the site to allow comments to be added to the map, and create a smartphone app to report issues.
You marked my house vacant, even though it’s not! Are you trying to take it away?
Not at all. With 31,574 parcels in Trenton, we know we got a few wrong. Don’t get upset – get involved. Use the contact form at www.restoringtrenton.org if you spot any issues like that.
What do I do if I can’t download information?
Let us know through the reporting form at www.restoringtrenton.org.
What is next step?
Isles and the TNRC will continue to work in partnership with the City of Trenton and other stakeholders – including you – to turn vacant properties from problems into opportunities. Isles has a number of initiatives ongoing or planned, including our community gardening program, a Clean and Green program we will be piloting next year, and a range of community-driven neighborhood plans.