Frequently asked questions

I RECEIVED A LETTER WHICH SAYS I OWE VACANT PROPERTY FEES, BUT MY PROPERTY ISN’T VACANT. WHAT SHOULD I DO?


The City of Trenton's amended Vacant Property Registration Ordinance took effect on January 30th, 2019. This ordinance requires owners of vacant properties to register them and pay an escalating annual fee. The City of Trenton used our database to send preliminary notifications to owners whose properties were noted as vacant in the database. We are happy to correct and update our data wherever there's an error, omission, or change – or call the City of Trenton's hotline at (609) 989-3513. This is an extensive undertaking, and despite our best efforts, we know some mistakes were made during the initial survey, and other properties have changed since we surveyed them. Note that when we receive a request for a correction, we always confirm them first, so it may take a bit of time for your requested change to appear on this site. We also inform the City when we make a correction.




WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS PROJECT?


This database is maintained by Isles, a local non-profit with over 30 years of experience, on behalf of the Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign (TNRC).




IS THIS DATABASE GOVERNMENT AFFILIATED?


No. Isles and the TNRC began creating this database independently in early 2014, building on earlier community-driven efforts, because vacant and abandoned properties are such a severe issue in our city. We were not commissioned, contracted, or paid by the City. While we regularly request data from the City, and the City may use our data after doing internal verification, this database is presently an independent project. However, efforts are currently underway to better integrate our data with the City’s systems.




HOW DO I PARTICIPATE IN THE HOMESTEADING PILOT PROGRAM (AKA THE "BUILDING FOR A DOLLAR" PROGRAM)?


The City is working to hire a Vacant Properties Coordinator to oversee homesteading initiatives, working with City Council to pass legislation, figuring out the detailed procedures, and identifying the actual properties. Use the City's official registration form if you would like to tell the City you're interested in partaking in this program.




IS THIS PROJECT THE CITY'S HOMESTEADING PROGRAM?


No, but our data is helping the City create and target its Homesteading Pilot program and other initiatives. We will update this site with more information once it becomes available.




WHAT IS THIS PROJECT?


Prior to this project, there was no data on where all the vacant properties in Trenton are located and what condition they're in. There was no comprehensive count of the vacant properties, no data on the scope of the problem, and no data on clusters or particularly distressed blocks - just anecdotal evidence. So a collaborative of non-profits and community members, led by Isles, conducted a citywide survey in the summer of 2014. Since then, we've been continuously updating the data based on information we receive from the City and from you. Let us know about any issues here, or by clicking the "Report an Issue" link in the info-window that pops up on a vacant property on the actual map.




WHO WAS INVOLVED IN THE VACANT PROPERTY SURVEY?


Isles, Inc. took the lead on fundraising, organizing, and managing the survey effort.
The Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign (TNRC) is a coalition of Trenton stakeholders, chaired by Isles, who work together and with the City of Trenton against the problems caused by vacant and abandoned properties. The TNRC was convened by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey in 2011.
The Rutgers Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability (CUES) provided data collection, mapping, and field expertise, as well as geospatial analysis and modeling. We have been working with CUES for over two years, in particular on an ongoing project - into which this vacant property survey feeds - on finding ways to repurpose vacant sites into assets for a better food system. The survey team: ​11 interns from Rutgers-CUES 2 interns from the Isles Youth Institute AmeriCorps program 5 high school volunteers through the Center for Faith Justice Over 30 community volunteers

  • The hosts: Our survey team was hosted by 17 organizations, businesses, and individuals as it moved around the city, with support offered by many others. Special thanks to:
    • The NJ State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs at the Carver Youth and Family Center
    • Mercer Street Friends
    • The Greater Trenton YMCA
    • The College of New Jersey (TCNJ)'s Bonner Center for Community Engaged Learning
    • The East Trenton Collaborative
    • Habitat for Humanity
    • The Habitat ReStore
    • Living Hope Empowerment Center
    • Chester and Jazmyn Jones at the Melrose Ave. Civic Association
    • Bethany House of Hospitality
    • Westminster Presbyterian Church
    • Samaritan Baptist Church
    • TerraCycle
    • Princeton Homebrew
    • Championship Bar and Grill
    • The Riverside Nursing Center
    • Trenton Social
    • ...and numerous other community members, civic associations, friends, and supporters.




WHAT WERE THE SURVEY COSTS AND HOW WAS IT FUNDED?


This project cost approximately $75,000 in grant funds from the Rita Allen Foundation, which covered data, equipment, staff time at Isles and CUES, and supplies.




HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO COMPLETE THIS PROJECT?


The field survey was completed in just seven weeks, and a couple months were taken to streamline and publish the data.




WILL THE DATA BE UPDATED?


Yes. While we have no immediate plans to repeat the citywide survey, Isles will update the baseline data either weekly or monthly (depending on traffic) based on information from stakeholders, the City of Trenton, and you. Several of you have already gotten in touch to flag errors, or to note that a building has recently become occupied – this is greatly appreciated. Keep in mind, however, that we verify every request for corrections -- so please do not ask us to take your property off the vacant list if it is still vacant.




WHAT DO I DO IF I SEE AN ERROR OR WANT TO REPORT NEW INFORMATION ABOUT A PROPERTY?


Please use the reporting form here for comments and suggested edits. We will periodically verify the information we receive and ensure that necessary edits get reflected. In due course, we will expand the capabilities of the site to allow comments to be added to the map, and create a smartphone app to report issues.




MY HOUSE WAS MISTAKENLY MARKED VACANT!


With over 24,000 properties (and 31,570 tax lots!) in Trenton, we are conscious of some errors. However, do not get upset – get involved! Contact us here.




MY PROPERTY IS VACANT, BUT I INTEND TO RENOVATE IT. CAN IT BE REMOVED FROM THE LIST?


No. If a mistake has been made, we'd be happy to correct it -- but if your property is vacant, it will remain on the list. We are aware of the complexities of people’s situations, and we understand that you're not one of the "bad" owners. But to keep the data consistent, we are unable to selectively hide your property. Contact us if you still think there's something we should know.




WILL ACCESS TO THIS DATABASE ENCOURAGE BREAK-INS AND THEFT?


The experience of other cities that have published this type of data is that it has zero effect on break-ins. We understand your concern -- but we also know that felons in Trenton are unlikely to utilize this resource. Criminals generally have much better ground-level knowledge than we do. In fact, the Fire Director and the TPD welcomed our data and have reportedly started to use it. What this site does is to put information in the hands of "the good guys" -- law enforcement, diligent neighbors, and you. And together, we are stronger than those who wish to do harm to the city.




WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM UNABLE TO DOWNLOAD INFORMATION?


Contact us and we will send you a file.




WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?


Isles and the TNRC will continue to work in partnership with the City of Trenton and other stakeholders – including you – to turn vacant properties from problems into opportunities. Isles has several initiatives ongoing or planned, including our community gardening program, a Clean and Green program, and a range of community-driven neighborhood plans. In the meantime, we're relying on you to help us keep our data updated. Contact us if you see a property become vacant, if a vacant property becomes unsecured, etc.





© 2020 by the Trenton Neighborhood Restoration Campaign.