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Atlanta City Councilmember has had it up to here with vacant, blighted houses

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Councilman Dustin Hillis is promoting a free app as a means of—eventually—creating affordable housing

District 9 Councilmember Dustin Hillis is pictured using an app called SeeClickFix to submit code enforcement issues to the city.
District 9 Councilmember Dustin Hillis is pictured using an app called SeeClickFix to submit code enforcement issues to the city.
City of Atlanta

Freshly installed Atlanta City Councilmember Dustin Hillis is hellbent on eradicating the vacant, blighted structures that pockmark the intown landscape.

And he believes technology is the key to swiftly doing so.

Since taking office in January, the District 9 representative and his staff have spent hours of spare time sharking the district for violations, logging more than 150 code enforcement issues, per a city-issued release this week.

A video provided by the city shows Hillis on a recent ride-along in Almond Park, just northwest of downtown, peeved by the state of two neighboring, burnt-out houses with lawns full of detritus.

“There’s a street full of people who have to drive home every day and look at this,” Hillis says in the clip. “It’s a health hazard and brings neighborhoods down.”

A more expedient solution could come via a free cellphone app called See Click Fix, the councilmember contends.

The app—used by Hillis and staff now—syncs with ATL 311 and sends notifications when new code enforcement violations are submitted. Meanwhile, the city is developing its own app for the same purpose, per the press release.

“We needed a better way to submit code violations to the city instead of writing it down on paper, dragging it back to the office, typing up a long email, and waiting on someone to enter the information into the system,” says Hillis, who’s been promoting the service at community meetings.

A Riverside resident and critical care nurse at Emory University Hospital by day, Hillis represents District 9, which includes a large swath of northwest Atlanta that stretches from Buckhead nearly to Interstate 20.

He’s a former member of the Atlanta Code Enforcement Commission, where his “proudest accomplishments” included “the resolution of over 800 code enforcement complaints, including over 100 demolitions,” per an online bio.

But Hillis’s goal with confronting blight goes beyond improved urban aesthetics.

States the release: “Ideally, the city would begin its judicial In Rem or condemnation powers to clear title to properties, clean them up, and then transfer to the Land Bank. The properties could then be sold to nonprofit developers who would then be tasked with building affordable housing.”

Hillis contends the current process might accomplish demolition but does little to resolve ownership issues that result in “lots vacant, overgrown, and prone to dumping,” he says.