One important way that local officials can foster healthy neighborhoods is through local building codes, conditional uses and nuisance abatement programs. These are often referred to collectively as code compliance or code enforcement.
Poorly maintained property can create an unhealthy living environment for tenants. In addition, buildings that are abandoned, vandalized or covered with graffiti can harbor criminal activity and contribute to the perception that a neighborhood or district is an unsafe place. This perception can keep people indoors or discourage them from visiting the area. Local code enforcement can contribute to a more healthful built environment in many ways; for example:
To safely accommodate pedestrians, property owners can be required to maintain street trees and other landscaping and to keep sidewalks adjoining their homes or businesses in good condition. Similarly, cities can require that street trees be replaced when they are removed because of concerns about public safety or damage to streets and sidewalks.
Code enforcement and nuisance abatement programs can be used to require property owners to keep their property in acceptable condition that meets community standards.
When agencies use conditional use permits to place restrictions on how property is used and businesses operate, the conditions must be enforced to be effective. Similarly, businesses that voluntarily agree to promote healthy practices in return for incentives, such as increased floor area or reduced requirements to provide parking, need to be monitored. For example, if stores near schools have agreed as a condition of approval to restrict the kinds of food and beverages they offer and advertise to minors local officials need to determine whether they are complying with the agreed-upon restrictions. Likewise, local agencies must ensure that businesses that have agreed to install secure bicycle parking for employees and customers have actually done so.
Neighborhoods that provide residents with a sense of place and a communal identity foster pride and cohesion and contribute to reduced rates of crime by increasing the number of “eyes on the street.”61 Fear of crime strongly influences one’s sense of community.62 Urban design features that increase neighborhood walkability and the mix of land uses contribute to a safer community by encouraging residents to be active in their neighborhood.63