Environmental Health Services (EHS) at the Tulsa City-County Health Department (THD) is responsible for housing inspections in the City of Tulsa. THD shares the responsibility of enforcing housing and nuisance complaints with the City of Tulsa. Tulsa has numerous aging neighborhoods and an eleven-year discrepancy in life expectancy, specifically in North Tulsa.
THD has two goals for the Housing program, increase communication with the City of Tulsa Working in Neighborhoods Department and decrease poor housing stock while providing affordable housing. THD is working within a subcommittee to address poor communication between the two agencies that enforce housing and nuisance code.
The objective is to create a coalition of community partners to identify what gaps exist, and how to best utilize resources to improve housing conditions in Tulsa, Oklahoma. EHS will collect accurate data to be shared by all partners, create effective strategies, deploy resources, and then follow-up and assess the program. In order to measure the effectiveness of the partnership, data was collected at the beginning and again in the future to capture the impact on a communities' overall health.
This project started in July of 2017. THD created a Housing Initiative Task Force. In order to achieve our first goal, the agencies mapped out our individual complaint and abatement process in order to compare and improve our response time to the community. The process mapping has created a more efficient inspection process. Next, we created two new inspection forms for both agencies to use when working both housing and nuisance complaints. The new forms helped improve our referral process and decrease abatement response time. This group collaborated to update the Housing Code to a more current standard that fits our community's needs.
Decreasing poor housing stock is a long-term goal that THD is currently working toward. EHS focuses on public education, reaching out to community partners, and applying the housing code to improve housing conditions. EHS selected 19 square miles from the north Tulsa area. EHS conducted exterior assessments of housing conditions such as high grass, trash, roof, windows, and paint. Then pulled complaint data over a three year period for these same square miles. A class at OSU-Tulsa created a door to door survey will be complete by the end of 2018 in 2 of these square miles. Many questions on this survey document public health issues. This data will be used as a baseline and after our community partners concentrate resources in these areas, other surveys will be conducted to measure effectiveness.
One of our community partners received an extra Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dedicated to a specific area in north Tulsa. The City of Tulsa is using the funds to concentrate in the Crutchfield neighborhood to increase impact on that community. The City is constructing a new bus terminal for a fast transit route through this major housing and employment district.
Since the start of this project, THD and the City of Tulsa have decreased the response time for referral nuisance complaints by two weeks in most cases. The new procedure for responding to emergency housing conditions was recently tested. Two apartment complexes were without electricity, and we had the potential for 40 families to be displaced. THD and City Code Enforcement were in contact with each other to post an Order to Repair, connect families with community partners, and contact the delinquent owner. Ultimately, many families were moved to safer housing with minimal expense and the apartment complexes will not be occupied until violations are fixed. The baseline survey will help the Housing Task Force measure our progress in the future.
The success of our program is linked to good communication and support from community partners. These groups have encouraged and helped our agencies think of new ways to communicate with each other and the public. The community partners are eager to be a part of the process of improving our community.
We have not reached a point in this program to be able to measure the impact on the community. EHS expects that there will be a reduction in complaint backlogs and more properties abated with similar funding amounts. We are using a combination of neighborhood surveys, both exterior assessments and a door to door questionnaire focusing on public health. The surveys will be complete at the end of 2018 and again in the future to measure direct results on the community.