Poor housing conditions in aging housing stocks continue to affect people living in rental units in downtown Lewiston, Maine. Currently, information on multi-family rental units downtown is difficult to access unless you know exactly what you are looking for. The Property Health Report (PHR) is an online database with a goal of increasing access to information on the safety and health information of multi-family rental homes in downtown Lewiston. Invented by local non-profit Healthy Homeworks, the database includes information on registration with the city, active liens, notices of violation, lead inspection data, and other data relating to financial, legal, and environmental aspects of the property. Publishing this data in an easy to understand way incentivizes landlords to keep their properties up to date and allows tenants to access important information before making significant housing decision. The PHR was started in 2018 by Healthy Homeworks founder Amy Smith. Before our work began, two other groups of Bates Environmental Studies students (Bourland et al. 2018, Castaneda et al. 2019) and a Bates summer intern worked on the PHR. Building off of the work of Amy and past students, we focused on the logistics behind the data sharing aspect of the project. We researched sample Memorandums of Understandings (MOUs) to help Amy create an appropriate pilot MOU for the PHR. We then negotiated with the city to reach a point where our pilot MOU was signed and a month-long feasibility study began. Along the way, we also acquired and processed data spreadsheets from the City of Lewiston. Our work on the PHR will hopefully be continued by another Bates Environmental Studies group next semester. While we are quickly approaching the planned public launch tentatively set to be in Spring/Summer 2020, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the PHR is accessible to downtown Lewiston community. Recommendations for next steps include using community organizations as a way to familiarize people with the database, translating the PHR into multiple languages, and nailing down the model so that it can be expanded into other cities facing a similar aging housing stock in the future. The planned public launch along with these important next steps will facilitate the transformation of Downtown Lewiston into a safer, healthier and more welcoming place for people to live in.
Landes, Sophie and Zhou, Hermione, "Finalizing the Property Health Report Completed in Conjunction with Healthy Homeworks, Lewiston" (2019). Community Engaged Research Reports. 69.