City Profile: Saint Paul, MN

Making Housing Safer

Staff from Saint Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections inspect a site as a resident looks on. Photo Credit: Justin Graddy.
“Reflecting on and improving our performance by using data is becoming how we do what we do.”

After a new ordinance shifted oversight of some 12,000 residential rental properties to Saint Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI), staff struggled to keep up with the nearly 200 percent workload increase. Applying data-focused strategies that What Works Cities partners had shared with the City’s Innovation Team, DSI identified goals and used data to allocate resources where they are most needed. DSI has also hired additional staff, equipped inspectors with mobile technology to increase efficiency in the field, and created incentives to encourage owners to better maintain their properties.

A new data-based dashboard helps to evaluate progress regularly, and staff meet monthly to review the numbers and identify ways to keep moving closer to performance targets. Less than a year later, inspections of overdue properties are on the decline, and overall productivity has increased by more than 50 percent. As a result, DSI has recently received an internationally recognized award for its innovative approach to inspections. “Reflecting on and improving our performance by using data is becoming how we do what we do,” says DSI Deputy Director Travis Bistodeau.


The above profile is an excerpt from “What Works Cities: How Local Governments Are Changing Lives,” a new report showcasing accomplishments from cities participating in the What Works Cities initiative over the past two years. Read more profiles and city success stories here.