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Innovating to support community development: A 2023 Reflection

Community gardens help put property to productive use and improve community health.

Reflecting on 2023, the word that comes to mind is grateful. Grateful for the chance to serve the public with our products and services and grateful for the team and partners with whom we get to do our work to renew properties.

Because of our work, we get a front-row seat to inspiring and uplifting community revitalization stories. Whether it is the “before-and-afters” from property transformations, a partner leaning into the dismantlement of historic discrimination with new and innovative community development programs, or something more mundane, such as a partner hiring its first director, we know we are part of a much larger body of work that is making communities healthier, more vibrant, and more inclusive each passing year. That’s why we continue to fine tune how we can make our partners' work more efficient, effective, and impactful.

eProperty Innovations is all about using data and technology to bring property to new life.

Product Development

ePropertyPlus is our property data management software suite. Since 2013, it has been supporting local governments involved in community revitalization, helping to form land banks, promoting the sale of land bank properties, and empowering nonprofit organizations who are involved in developing inclusive communities and renewing properties for the public. In 2023, we released 10 different ePropertyPlus product updates to make an already great product even better.

Some highlights from this year's updates include:

  • Integrated ePropertyPlus with the Converge Payment Processing Platform to help our partners collect fees electronically.
  • Integrated ePropertyPlus and DocuSign, so our partners can enjoy a fully digital selling experience, from application to processing to signing documents.
  • Significantly added to existing automations and workflows, so partners can build out complex business processes to support a myriad of use cases.
  • Added dynamic pricing and new auction capabilities, so ePropertyPlus partners can run live property auctions and capture competitive pricing for their properties.

ePropertyPlus continues to be the leading software solution for organizations tackling vacant property challenges, and our commitment to improving the software features is one way we respond to the initiative of our partners.

Customer Success

It is not enough to simply roll features out, however. True partnership means leaning into our partners’ successes.

  • In 2023, we delivered free monthly User Q-and-A Sessions where we taught users how to leverage ePropertyPlus features, teased out enhancements, and shared best practices.
  • We introduced a new series called Refresherator, a quarterly series for new staff users who want a quick tutorial to get started, and
  • We produced dozens of short tutorial videos.

Training sessions embody our “community of practice approach:” each session is grounded in the lived experience of end users working in the field. We provide practical guidance that helps our partners become better equipped to overcome data management challenges and to get more leverage out of their data with ePropertyPlus. Sometimes, that leads to new projects, like one in Waterbury, CT to help the Waterbury Land Bank complete a digital conditions survey of distressed property, or one we did with the Kansas City Land Bank to move their property marketing and disposition process into a more fully digital experience.

In 2023, we showed Waterbury Land Bank how to use ePropertyPlus Mobile App to perform conditions assessments on more than 200 potential acquisitions, which will inform their decision making in 2024.

Strategic Consulting

Lastly, we expanded our services to help emerging organizations get up to speed faster and with more impact. We led an executive search process for the Kankakee Land Bank in Illinois, implemented a comprehensive new permitting process for City of Sharon, PA, and began leading the effort to launch a new land bank in Fresno, California.

In between these big projects, we onboarded new ePropertyPlus subscriber partners in Alabama and Indiana, and we attended and helped sponsor conferences on land banks and land banking, management of public housing, and modular construction. Our team attends conferences and follows industry trends to gather useful information to share with our partners via technical assistance, email newsletters, and social media channels.

Scott Danielson and Brian White stand ready to talk property revitalization at the last VAD conference in Chicago, We'll be at VAD in St. Louis 2024.

Looking Ahead to 2024

Looking ahead to 2024, there are some big questions on the horizon. One question is how the land bank space will continue to evolve, as new challenges arise to the sale of land bank properties. Land banks formed to renew a flood of distressed property post-Great Recession are seeing their land bank property inventories shrink and the nature of their work become more sophisticated. The repercussions of the global pandemic paired with historic high interest rates pushed land banks to shift from a wholesale strategy to a retail strategy, but further evolution is required to keep the sale of land bank properties relevant (and funded).

Local governments continue to evolve as well. This year saw a huge infusion of federal funding into local governments, which then led to investments in infrastructure, energy, and transportation. However, housing and community development received a smaller share of support. The high cost of construction, diminishing amount of land, and increased challenges of delivering infill housing at scale are big hurtles facing local governments who are striving to renew properties with better community development programs. Local governments also need to attract and retain younger, more technologically-savvy workers to replace workers reaching retirement age.  

For eProperty Innovations, we expect 2024 to be a year of continued challenges, but every challenge is an opportunity. Rebuilding communities and neighborhoods is a group effort. It takes all parties pulling in the same direction, and getting all of those interests aligned can be immensely challenging. Add in the after-effects of the global pandemic, historic high interest rates, an unpredictable Supreme Court, and the increasingly divisive politics in our country, and it can sometimes seem that the challenges are insurmountable.

But, they’re not! Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Onwards!

We see every challenge as an opportunity. Let's go!