Why Community Progress?
As a national leader on solutions for vacant, abandoned, and other problem properties, the Center for Community Progress serves as the leading resource for local, state, and federal policies and best practices that address the full cycle of property revitalization, from blight prevention and strategic code enforcement, through the acquisition and maintenance of problem properties, to their productive reuse.
Diverse Experience, Deep Expertise
In varying degrees, vacancy and abandonment exist in all communities. From the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt, our expert team members have worked with metropolitan centers, small cities, suburban and rural towns, and statewide coalitions and leaders to tailor for each community the appropriate strategies, reforms, and policies that address the unique challenges of vacancy and abandonment. Our goal is to offer local and state leaders new tools and knowledge in the fight against blight, ultimately supporting their efforts to create safer, healthier, and more vital neighborhoods for all.
Whether evaluating delinquent tax enforcement systems or information systems, strategizing on code enforcement, assisting with policy development, or supporting the creation and implementation of land banks, we pride ourselves on working closely with partner communities to customize our services and assistance to meet local conditions, needs, and priorities.
Requesting Technical Assistance
To inquire about or request Technical Assistance, please review our instructions here.
Although technical assistance is primarily provided on a fee-for-service basis, we now offer the Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), a competitive scholarship program to support innovative and forward-thinking projects at a significantly discounted rate. To learn more about TASP, past TASP scholarship recipients, and the next request for applications, please visit our dedicated TASP webpage here.
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.
One of our most common and critical forms of engagement, the comprehensive assessment is a chance for us 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.
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.
Erie County, Pennsylvania (2012). We conducted a strategic assessment of blight in Erie County, which included a blight risk analysis, in-person stakeholder interviews, and thorough review of existing policies and programs. Our report highlighted six key recommendations to help Erie County, its local units of government, and its partners develop a comprehensive, systems-based approach to 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 key 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 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 inter-departmental property and neighborhood data, but also take advantage of existing local technology and infrastructure. Our report 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.
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 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.
Flint, Michigan, Code Enforcement Report (2013). Community Progress worked with the City of Flint to assess current code enforcement practices, share national best practices and offer recommendations for more effectively tackling substandard rental properties. Our report also highlighted the value of using quality parcel data and market conditions to inform blight reduction efforts, including the strategic deployment of code enforcement resources and interventions.
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.
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.
Pennsylvania, Tax Foreclosure Law (2013). Community Progress provided testimony to the PA House Urban Affairs Committee in support of reforming House Bill 1409 (HB1409), which sought to create a more effective, efficient, and equitable tax collection and enforcement system in the state of Pennsylvania. In our testimony, we highlighted several critical issues with the former HB1409 structure ranging from having multiple, complex statutory tax collection and enforcement systems, to the risks and challenges introduced by the sale of tax liens. Community Progress provided recommendations that would aid in improving tax collection and enforcement of delinquent taxes in Pennsylvania, and ultimately preserve the quality of life of communities in the Commonwealth.
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.
Omaha, Nebraska, Municipal Land Bank Creation and Board Development (2013 – ongoing). Our involvement in Omaha traces back to 2013, when we were again contacted by state officials interested in drafting statewide land bank enabling legislation based on the legislative template included in Land Banks and Land Banking, a Community Progress publication authored by Frank Alexander (2nd edition available here). Upon passage of the Nebraska state land bank statute, and adoption of the ordinance creating the Omaha Municipal Land Bank, Community Progress along with multiple local Omaha partners was honored for our contributions to this effort by the Omaha Habitat for Humanity Chapter. More recently, at the start of 2015, we carried out a two-day intensive board training for the newly seated board on issues ranging from land bank board governance and effective community engagement to the development of land bank acquisition, maintenance, and disposition policies.
New York, Statewide Support (2010 – ongoing). Our work in New York over the last five 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 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.
Calhoun County, Michigan (2013 – 2014). Community Progress worked closely with the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority’s (CCLBA) board and staff members to update formalized priorities, policies, and procedures to align with the overall mission, vision, and goals of the land bank. These documents helped to provide a strong foundation for the ongoing acquisition, management, and disposition of properties held by the land bank and ensure that the transactions of the land bank were clear, consistent, and transparent. Further building on this work, Community Progress staff also led intensive strategic planning sessions with staff of the land bank honing in on CCLBA programs/activities, organizational development, financial sustainability, and board development.
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. We support innovation in property maintenance and reuse strategies, and work closely with communities and their partners to identify the right solutions that reflect local conditions and meet neighborhood needs.
New Orleans, Louisiana (2013 – 2014). Community Progress examined various models for the maintenance and treatment of vacant lots in other U.S. cities to support maintenance efforts in New Orleans for a large inventory of vacant, unimproved land. This memo outlines our findings.
Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Future City Strategic Framework (2011 - 2012). The Detroit Future City Plan is the result of a multi-year planning process, laying out a vision for future land use, neighborhoods, economic development, public land, and civic capacity. Community Progress participated as a consultant on the technical team, facilitated the multi-sector public land working group, and authored the Public Land and Assets section of the plan. This work detailed the challenges and opportunities of Detroit’s significant land holdings; provided a decision matrix for how to maintain, acquire, sell, and reuse land based on a variety of factors such as market and future land use; and outlined the steps for implementation of the land use vision relating to the reuse of public land. (NOTE: Detroit was also a Round 2 TASP scholarship recipient. Check out the final report (November 2015) to see how we continued to explore ownership and reuse strategies for the City’s extensive open space inventory.)