New app ‘crowdsources’ data about vacant properties

New app ‘crowdsources’ data about vacant properties

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A new mobile application is allowing users to tag abandoned properties in their neighborhoods, creating a master data set to address the city's challenges with urban blight.

Local attorney-turned developer Shantanu Singh launched the app, Vacant Voices, earlier this year.  He hopes the app will help create more robust and transparent data about Milwaukee's abandoned properties.

"With information comes empowerment and data to support strategy to end the blight," Singh said.

Users of the app work though a checklist, evaluating the property's roof, sidewalk and porch.  The app pinpoints the property's GPS coordinates, as well as the date and time.  Users can also submit photos, using their smartphone's camera, to show their findings.

And Singh says, as the app gains traction, he hopes it will gain popularity among local nonprofits working to address housing issues.

"Nonprofits understand the heartbeat of the community and understand what is needed in for that community."

Right now, the app is only available for Android devices, but Singh says a version for Apple iOS is planned for future development.

The City of Milwaukee owns more than 1,200 properties that have entered tax foreclosure.  Additionally, more than 1,400 properties are in bank-owned foreclosure, according to a recent newspaper report.

Click the podcast player above to hear our interview with Singh.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee