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America’s Vacant Lot Landscape

How are vacant lots evolving in the United States? What strategies do professionals consider most effective at returning purpose to these properties? What have practitioners learned in the last several years that other municipalities and organizations can benefit from? And what do organizations still need to do this work effectively? 


In 2019 the Center for Community Progress and the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center at the University of Michigan School of Public Health conducted a national survey of organizations that own, maintain, and/or green vacant property. In total, staff from 119 organizations across 27 states shared responses, providing a broad overview of the state of the practice.


Vacant Land Today: While Vacant Land Increases, Local Innovations are Paving the Way for Systems Change (Survey Highlights | Download

Millions of residents across the United States are impacted by growing inventories of vacant lots.

Survey responses reveal several clear trends: While inventories of vacant lots are growing, organizations that own, green, and maintain vacant property are implementing innovative strategies managing lots and improving neighborhoods. This overview shares highlights of what we learned from the survey responses. Information on this page represents aggregated responses.


Talking Vacant Lots: Key Definitions for Understanding Today’s Environment

As terms to describe vacant property care often vary across the field, we shared the following definitions with survey respondents to ensure clarity and consistency. These definitions are useful for understanding and framing our findings. 

Key Terms

• Vacant Properties: Vacant lots and lots with vacant structures
• Vacant Lots: Structure-free lots that were previously developed (not undeveloped land, greenfields, etc.)
• Holding Title to an Inventory of Vacant Property: Owning one or more vacant lots or lots with vacant structures
• Maintenance: The basic care and upkeep of vacant properties (e.g., mowing and trash removal)
• Greening: Intentional enhancement of vacant lots (e.g., fencing, landscaping, community gardens and paths)




Innovations are Happening in Communities Across the Country

In spite of limited resources, organizations are doing incredible work to transform vacant lots into local assets that help communities thrive. Check out our interactive story map for project photos, stories, and advice from the practitioners driving innovation across the country.




Learn More About Vacant Land

Community Progress and the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center will be sharing more results from our 2019 survey along with resources for practitioners working to maximize the potential of vacant land across the U.S. Sign up to get first alerts on new resources and insights. Sign Up for Alerts

About Community Progress

Since 2010, the Center for Community Progress has helped more than 300 communities transform vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties into assets for neighbors and neighborhoods. Through offices in Michigan and Washington, D.C., Community Progress works to create a future where all people live in strong, healthy, just communities where widespread vacant properties no longer exist. For more information, visit www.communityprogress.net.


About Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center

The Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center (MI-YVPC), based at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, is one of six National Centers of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Centers are funded to research youth violence prevention approaches, collect and analyze surveillance data, and foster relationships with local community partners to help develop, implement, and evaluate promising prevention efforts. MI-YVPC partners with universities, economic development organizations, health departments, hospitals, police departments and community-based organizations to implement and evaluate strategies to prevent youth violence. Learn more at http://yvpc.sph.umich.edu/.

The MI-YVPC and the national survey on greening are supported by a cooperative agreement (U01CE002698) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.