Neighborhood Improvement Services brings the city together

Vonzennia Gore, assistant director of the City of Durham Neighborhood Improvement Services, sits at her desk to focus on the daily tasks ahead of her. (Staff photo by Dominick Askew)


The City of Durham Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services, located at 101 City Hall Plaza, has five divisions to help keep the city regulated.

The five divisions consist of code enforcement, community engagement, Impact team, human relations, and administration.

Assistant Director of Neighborhood Improvement Services, Vonzennia Gore, says she thinks of NIS “as being the liaison between the city and the neighborhood.”

Neighborhood Improvement Services cleans the city of Durham by improving the quality of life for its residents. NIS is responsible for enforcing life ordinances, which includes keeping minimum housing codes, nonresidential codes, and overgrown lots throughout the city.

The city sends out rapid responders known as the Impact Team to clean up litter, graffiti, illegal dumping and stray shopping carts. The Impact Team is an eight-person team that goes out daily to sweep the community of any abandoned lots and homes for junk and debris.

The mission of Neighborhood Improvement Services is to provide quality services to make Durham a great place to live, work and play. NIS focuses on bringing the community together by creating programs that allows you to interact with your neighbors. One of their events, called Durham Bull Play Streets,  encourages the community to come out play kickball, soccer and a series of other sports.

“Those types of activities allow the residents of Durham to know who lives in their neighborhoods,” says Gore.

They also do about 5,000 housing inspections each year; one of the biggest issues is overgrown lots. With a large number of overgrown lots, NIS has a hard time getting residents to maintain their yards.

In the case of uncooperative residents or abandoned properties, the city sends out the Impact Team to handle the weedy lots.

Along with allowing residents to send in complaints, NIS also goes out into the neighborhood and does routine checks to make sure all housing codes are up to date. NIS is hands-on when it comes to keeping the city clean, providing its services daily to make sure every resident is safe and every neighborhood is tidy.

The human relations division of NIS helps people who have continuous complaints about their living area. Property owners throughout the city who fail to keep their properties up to date are reported to NIS. Once NIS receives the complaint and reaches out to the property owner, and if they still fail to comply, NIS then give it to the judicial system.  This service guarantees that no matter what the processes, NIS make sure that the residents are safe, comfortable and their living codes are up to date.

The strategic plan includes strong and diverse economy, safe and secure community, thriving and livable neighborhoods, innovative and high performing organization, and stewardship of physical and environmental assets. Implementing these goals into every neighborhood in the city provides a standard that every neighborhood should meet. This plan also sets the foundation for the city of Durham to be a role model for surrounding cities.