Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Philip Bredesen

Nashville Homestead Corporation

The Nashville Homestead Corporation transfers vacant residential lots owned by the Metropolitan Government to individuals and families who agree to construct a house on the property and live there for seven years.

The lots are given away through drawing. Two drawings have been held to date, the first in November 1996 and the second in April 1997, with 25 lots given away at each. Two weeks prior to the drawing a list of the properties is sent to anyone who has placed their name on the mailing list. This allows time for

people to inspect properties that interest them. A list of the lots is also published in Nashville newspapers. Lots are obtained from back-tax sales or purchased through the Community Development Block Grant program. Most lots are located in older established neighborhoods in the central city.

On sign-up day each prospective homesteader must present a signed bid agreement that outlines the program guidelines. This bid agreement is exchanged for a big card with three bid tickets attached. Those three tickets may be placed in any of the 25 boxes marked with individual property addresses. Bidders may put all three tickets in one box or spread them out over two or three boxes. Approximately 300 households participated in the first drawing. Twice that number participated in the second drawing.

A "first claim" name is drawn for each of the 25 lots. The first claim winner has 90 days to arrange financing to construct their new house. Construction must be completed within 12 months. Two back-up claims are also drawn for each lot in case the first claim is not able to use the lot. Local nonprofit agencies and the local housing authority assist homesteaders with construction of the house and offer home ownership classes and help in securing financing. Contractors, banks and nonprofit agencies are allowed to set up exhibits at the sign-up site to distribute brochures and information about the services and products they offer.

Once financing is obtained, the Nashville Homestead Corporation must approve the design of the house and the site plan. At the time the homesteader is ready to close a construction loan and pull a building permit, the lot is transferred. The Nashville Homestead Corporation holds a Second Deed of Trust on the property and a Promissory Note for the value of the land. These are subordinate to the first mortgage. The Deed of Trust and Promissory Note will be released after seven years. If the property is sold before that time, or if the homesteader moves, the Promissory Note for the value of the property must be paid.

Contact: Shannon Hunt, Office of the Mayor, (615) 862-6000
Loretta Owens, Nashville Homestead Corporation, (615) 780-7000

Nashville Environmental Task Force

The Environmental Task Force is an innovative program that was pulled together by the Mayor to maximize efficiency among the City's inspectors who enforce public safety. In April 1994, the ETF began operation with inspectors from Codes, Health, Fire Marshall, and with officers with the Police Department. The ETF targets businesses that repeatedly violate local public safety codes and ordinances and works to have those establishments either brought into compliance or shut down. Most of the establishments are not open for business during the day and have been able to escape the scrutiny of the City officials.

Many of the businesses are ones that the inspectors would not feel comfortable entering alone . The ETF always travels to targeted sites with police present for security. Having armed officers for protection provides the members a work environment that is secure in comparison to that of inspectors who are often at risk as they go about the business of enforcing the City's codes.

The team goes out twice monthly as a unit with each member carrying an ETF badge and wearing an identifying windbreaker. Before going to a business, research is done by the Codes Department to determine if its history justifies an inspection by the ETF. If a business refuses to allow the members in, the ETF may not enter, as this would require a warrant. Rarely does anyone refuse.

All work is coordinated by Police Captain Danny Baker who must sign off on all targeted sites. The Legal Department assisted in the group's formation and continues to have input regarding the ETF's activity. Much care is taken to ensure that the members' personal safety as well as personal liability is protected.

Members are paid either overtime or comp time, as the inspections are always made after normal work hours. Many of the original members are still active with the ETF, which enables the group to work more efficiently. Each member has a working knowledge of the other department's public safety rules and assists in identifying violations. If criminal activity is suspected, Police officers respond. Citations issued by the ETF are civil and criminal. If a member believes immediate action is needed because of health, fire or any safety violation, a business can be shut down on the spot. This has occurred on several occasions. When the owner complies, the business can reopen. If, after being cited, a business fails to comply, the owner is taken to Environmental Court. The members appear in court to testify if necessary.

Since the inception of the ETF, over 1,000 citations and notices of abatement have been issued at over 175 establishments with 18 businesses choosing to close their doors rather than comply. The goal of the ETF is not to shut a business down but to bring it into compliance, providing a healthy and safe environment for the community.

Participation is on a voluntary basis, requiring no additional employees. Transportation needs are met through a surplus van that was refurbished by the Motor Pool. Members hold their meetings in a fire hall that had been converted to office space. Computer equipment once used by another department was given to the ETF. Other than jackets and badges, the City did not purchase anything for the team. It has been a collaborative effort and the pay-back is a safer City, increased morale among the team members, maximized use of employee's time and the knowledge that those who violate will have an increased chance of getting caught and being held accountable. The Environmental Task Force is seen as a perfect example of governmental agencies working together to achieve a common goal.

Contact: Jennifer Hill, Office of the Mayor, (615) 862 6000

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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