The City of Baltimore is looking to revamp the system it uses to buy and sell public assets.
To do this, the City of Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development recently contracted a software tool from Boston Tolemi, called Slate. In partnership with the Real Estate Department of the Baltimore City Comptroller’s Office, the city is modernizing and centralizing data held in various systems and formats across all departments and agencies to streamline information and decision-making regarding public properties.
Using this tool, the City will be able to create, geocode and integrate new property and project information into a mapping application, along with all other City data. The software will allow departments to track workflows associated with properties based on what stage they are in and how long they are at a certain stage in the process. It will also generate a dashboard, tracking exactly where each property is and identifying bottlenecks.
“It will be an improvement day and night for our customers and internally also for the staff,” said alice kennedy, Acting Housing Commissioner. “This is going to help us speed up the disposition process and overall it provides a significant benefit to the taxpayer in terms of ease of use and better customer service.”
The system will help digitize and automate 15-year-old spreadsheet-based manual processes. Officials said it would bring services like paying tax liens or buying vacant city homes to something more in line with an app that allows private market buying, like Zillow.
Last week, the city Estimates Council approved the purchase of a three-year license from Slate. The contract is valued at $423,000, according to Board of Estimates documents.
Government agencies will completely overhaul systems to reduce or eliminate redundant and manual tasks.
“One of the exciting things about Slate is the built-in process improvement, which requires us, with the help of the Slate team, to completely deconstruct a process that has been in place for many years and put it back together. in a way that promotes efficiency, transparency and fairness,” said Andy Frank, the acting director of real estate in the Baltimore City Comptroller’s Office.
Frank put the improvement into context by explaining how it will improve the city’s Seller’s Privilege program, which sells tax certificates to buyers who agree to renovate a property to own or rent in exchange for a negotiated reduction in the amount of privilege.
Under the current system, buyers can only purchase three certificates for properties from the City through the program at a time, partly based on capacity.
Slate, in turn, augments this capability by automatically creating the required tasks when a provider’s privilege process is initiated. Generating customizable forms will eliminate the need to recreate and edit the same documents over and over, Frank said. Client communications will be managed entirely within the platform and all documents are contained within the system, meaning there is no need to deposit physical copies or store critical documents on networks local.
Implementation will occur in phases, which will take approximately four months from the City’s first engagement with the Slate team. Expect the first workflow in Slate to be created by the end of this year. The entire redesign is expected to be completed by summer 2022.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-