The following represent a small sample of technical assistance projects that we have completed in the last few years, categorized under some of our areas of expertise for reader convenience.
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Areas of Expertise:
One of our most common and important forms of engagement, the comprehensive assessment is a chance to fully evaluate all the policies, systems, and practices that may be contributing to vacancy and abandonment in your community. Our assessments often identify problems that may be exacerbating vacancy and abandonment more than local leaders had assumed. We will build a scope of work around your particular needs, but we generally provide each community with a final technical report that includes observations and a menu of recommendations. We typically maintain ongoing relationships with our partner communities and support their implementation efforts through a range of activities, such as facilitating peer-to-peer networks, hosting learning exchanges, and conducting research.
Indianapolis, Indiana – General Assessment (2016)
Community Progress worked with local and governmental stakeholders in the City of Indianapolis to conduct a general assessment of the systems pertaining to vacancy and abandonment. The final report (PDF) provides short-term and long-term recommendations for addressing vacancy and abandonment in Indianapolis, and aims to provide local policy makers and community stakeholders with the foundation needed to (1) understand the current set of legal systems and policy tools (toolbox) available to address vacant and abandoned properties, and (2) to develop a framework for how to best deploy those tools in a coordinated and effective manner.
Wilmington, Delaware (2014)
Working with the Office of the Attorney General in the Delaware Department of Justice, we assessed the underlying issues and systems related to vacancy and abandonment in the City of Wilmington, with a focus on operations and policies, code enforcement, vacant property registration, delinquent tax enforcement, and land banking. Our report provided observations and recommendations for the City and other local stakeholders to consider as they look to develop a more comprehensive and effective approach to address vacancy and blight.
A comprehensive strategy to address vacancy and abandonment must be guided by strong leadership and informed by accurate, robust property data and neighborhood market conditions. We are not IT consultants. We don’t build-out software solutions for local governments. However, we do help local governments understand the tremendous value of collecting, integrating and analyzing key property and market datasets to inform their strategies, policies, and interventions. From helping local governments break down the culture of “siloed” departments to explaining how interventions and strategies should be tailored to neighborhood market conditions, we can shed light on the significance of effective and efficient information management practices in combating vacancy and abandonment.
Trenton, New Jersey, Market Condition Study (2015)
Community Progress, in partnership with a local university and other local stakeholders, assessed the City of Trenton’s current neighborhood market conditions and trends by collecting, analyzing, and mapping housing market-oriented data. This study (PDF) serves as a guide for city stakeholders in considering how to most effectively deploy and target resources and interventions across neighborhoods sensitive to the underlying market conditions.
Lafayette, Louisiana (2014)
As part of our Technical Assistance Scholarship Program, Community Progress assembled a team of geographic information and technology experts to review existing property data collection and management practices and recommend solutions that will not only help to integrate interdepartmental property and neighborhood data, but also take advantage of existing local technology and infrastructure. Our report (PDF) outlined some short-term actions Lafayette could take to further the integration of data and improve data management practices, better positioning the community to proactively identify and address problem properties.
One of the most important ways to prevent or address existing vacant and blighted properties is through strategic code enforcement. Many local communities maintain a reactive, complaint-driven model of enforcement, with many hours and dollars committed to ineffective means in addressing violators. We can help your community take steps toward building a more strategic code enforcement system, and integrating this prevention work into a comprehensive strategy.
Mobile, Alabama – Code Enforcement (2016 - Ongoing)
Community Progress worked with the City of Mobile, Alabama, to identify legislative options for creating an equitable, efficient, and effective code enforcement system. Guided by the findings and recommendations in our assessment memo (PDF), the City subsequently engaged Community Progress to draft state enabling legislation, which will allow the City (and only the City of Mobile) to implement a system of housing and building code enforcement through judicial in rem proceedings. The legislation was introduced in the 2017 Regular Session of the Alabama House of Representatives and is currently pending resolution.
Gary, Indiana - Data Systems, Code Enforcement, and Delinquent Tax Enforcement (2015)
As part of our Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), Community Progress provided the City of Gary with a diagnostic review and assessment of the City’s systems and practices as it relates to data collection and management, code enforcement, and delinquent tax enforcement, to provide the City with the tools and knowledge needed to strategically tackle the widespread vacancy and abandonment in Gary. The report (PDF) evaluates data management and sharing practices, maps the process of code enforcement in the City, and analyzes trends in delinquent tax enforcement in an effort to identify operational and policy alternatives in order to help the City build a more strategic approach to vacancy and abandonment.
Atlanta, Georgia (2014)
As part of our Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), Community Progress worked with staff and elected leadership at the City of Atlanta on the utilization of delinquent property tax enforcement systems in coordination with housing and building code enforcement to strengthen municipal responses to blight, vacancy, and abandonment in distressed neighborhoods. Building off the local knowledge of our Atlanta-based staff, we challenged city and county officials to consider a bold paradigm shift in how to address code violators within existing but underutilized local and state statutes for more effective results. This is one of the first reports (PDF) in which we outline in detail, using a hypothetical abandoned property, a “Fix it Up, Pay it Up, Give it Up!” approach to achieve a more effective, efficient, and equitable code enforcement system.
Property tax delinquency is often the most significant common denominator among vacant and abandoned properties. Unfortunately, many local governments are constrained by antiquated tax foreclosure laws or engage in practices that can prioritize the short-term interest of investors over the long-term interest of local residents. We can help your communities take steps toward building an efficient, effective and equitable tax enforcement and foreclosure system, and assist with integrating these practices into a more comprehensive strategy.
Baltimore, Maryland – Delinquent Property Tax Enforcement (2016)
As part of our Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), Community Progress worked with City and community stakeholders to evaluate the City’s tax sale system, which local leaders identified as contributing to the ongoing cycle of property vacancy and abandonment in the City of Baltimore. The report provides a general overview of observations that range from abolishing the sale of tax liens through changes in local policy and operations, and includes recommendations to create a system that supports the maximum collection of property tax revenue, protects the most vulnerable residents, and returns vacant properties to productive reuse. An appendix to the report also contains draft legislation intended to provide a new system for property tax enforcement in Maryland. All observations and recommendations outlined in the report, including the proposed legislation, are focused on the ultimate goal of creating a more equitable, efficient, and effective property tax enforcement system for Baltimore City.
Rochester, New York, Analysis of Bulk Tax Lien Sale (2013)
Community Progress conducted an analysis of the fiscal and community impacts of the City’s four-year old approach of third-party bulk tax lien sales. Our report outlines both the positive and the negative impacts, provides brief descriptions of alternative delinquent tax enforcement strategies used in other cities, and offers recommendations on how to improve Rochester’s system to support neighborhood stability.
Though land banks have existed for 40 years, there has been an explosion of interest and activity in land banks since 2009. Generally, land banks are created to strategically and nimbly acquire vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties and convert these liabilities into assets that support the community’s goals. Whether it’s providing expertise for state and local legislative efforts, conducting board trainings, or guiding innovation in the field of practice, we have been at the vanguard of the land bank movement, supporting creation and implementation efforts across the country, from Nebraska to New York and Michigan to Georgia. For more information on land banks and land banking, please visit the Land Bank Information Headquarters.
New York, Statewide Support (Ongoing since 2010)
Our work in New York over the last seven years reflects the full range of support services we offer in the area of land banks and land banking. For more than a year, we educated state lawmakers on land banks as a coalition of legislators worked to develop state enabling legislation based on the template created by Frank Alexander, co-founder and Fellow of Community Progress. After the bill was signed into law in July 2011, Community Progress was retained by the state to help administer the program and guide communities in the creation of land banks. Since then, Community Progress has supported the creation and capacity-building of the New York Land Bank Association (NYLBA), helped produce a brief report on the first two years of the state’s nascent land bank movement, and carried out board training engagements with a few of the first land banks the state authorized.
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Tri-COG Land Bank Business Plan Evaluation (2014)
Community Progress reviewed the business plan and implementation strategy of the proposed Tri-COG Land Bank, a groundbreaking, multi-jurisdictional land bank being guided by the leadership and municipal members of three Councils of Governments. Our report (PDF) highlighted the many strengths of the business plan, and identified a key provision of the state’s land bank act exclusive to Allegheny County that will require the genuine and thoughtful cooperation of all parties involved in order to create any local or regional land bank in the county.
As local communities and their partners take more proactive steps to acquire problem properties as part of a comprehensive approach to vacancy and abandonment, there are often challenges in finding cost-effective maintenance practices and productive reuses that benefit the community, particularly with large inventories of vacant land. We support innovation in vacant land maintenance and reuse strategies, including open space uses and greening interventions, and work closely with communities and their partners to identify the right solutions that reflect local conditions and meet neighborhood needs.
Lucas County and City of Toledo, Ohio – Cost of Blight Study and Open Space Action Plan (2016)
As part of our Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), Community Progress worked with the Lucas County Land Bank and the City of Toledo, Ohio, on inventorying and prioritizing potential reuse options for vacant parcels in the Junction neighborhood, a historic African-American neighborhood with a high vacancy rate. We completed a cost of blight study (PDF) for the City of Toledo, which measures blight’s public costs and impact on property values in the city. The open space action plan (PDF) identifies priority vacant land reuse opportunities consistent with resident priorities and a new framework for ownership, maintenance, and reuse of the extensive inventory of vacant land in the Junction neighborhood.
Detroit Future City, Michigan – Ownership, Funding, and Reuse Options for Long-Term Open Space (2015)
As part of our Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), Community Progress worked with Detroit Future City to explore long-term ownership, funding, and reuse options for nearly 13 square miles of vacant land in the city, as part of an eventual open space plan for the City of Detroit. The report (PDF) gives an overview of a number of different ownership models and funding mechanisms for large-scale, long-term open space reuse, and provides recommendations for possible open space land uses for the City, such as urban farming, biofuel, green stormwater infrastructure, and greenways. This project laid the groundwork for the City to embark on a more comprehensive open space planning process in the future.