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Due to the widespread power outages caused by February’s snow storms, we will accept Letter of Interest submissions from cities inTexas and Oklahoma ONLY until Friday, March 5, 2021 at 5:00pm ET. Letters submitted from cities outside of the impacted areas will not be reviewed or accepted after February 26, 2021. 


Vacant Property Leadership Institute – Apply Today

Developing Local Leaders to Restore Vitality to America’s Neighborhoods Impacted by Crisis

From COVID-19 to the lingering effects of the Great Recession, communities are facing the snowballing challenges of addressing and preventing widespread systemic vacancy. Now, Community Progress and the National League of Cities are offering a new type of help through the Vacant Property Leadership Institute (Leadership Institute).


The 2021 Leadership Institute combines four-days of intense training, up to 100-hours of technical assistance, and access to a network of experts and practitioners to help local leaders come together to tackle today’s challenges with vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties in their communities.


Program Overview

Details | Benefits | Cost |  Requirements & Criteria | Deadlines | Hosts | Contact

Community Progress and the National League of Cities have partnered to help cities, towns, and villages develop and hone system-based approaches to addressing property vacancy, abandonment, and deterioration. Through the Leadership Institute, leaders will:
  • Unlock new strategies to equitably stabilize and restore communities,
  • Experience and gain access to the latest tools for assessing and reforming systems that contribute to vacancy at the state and local levels,
  • Develop customized strategies for driving meaningful change and responses to COVID-19 and historic VAD property issues, and
  • Build the relationships necessary for pursuing a systems-based approach with other leaders both within and across cities, towns, and villages.

Vacant Property Leadership Institute Program Details

The Leadership Institute, which builds on the past success of the Community Progress Leadership Institute, will engage participants from up to 3 cities, across 3 states in training, technical assistance, and networking to help them as they work to transform their states and communities.


Leadership Institute Curriculum  

Through rigorous classroom sessions and small group activities, our faculty of top national experts and local practitioners will guide participants to develop an understanding of:


  • Adaptative leadership: Building individual and collective leaders that thrive in challenging environments;
  • Data and neighborhood markets: Using data to understand the conditions that shape revitalization opportunities, constraints, and how to plan accordingly;
  • Strategic housing and building code enforcement: Developing vacancy prevention programs that respond to the varying needs and priorities of different neighborhoods;
  • Delinquent property tax systems: Reforming tax policies so that they contribute to neighborhood stabilization;
  • Land banking: Examining how to use this tool to eliminate properties' liabilities so they can return to productive use;
  • Vacant land reuse: Demonstrating how to identify, fund, and implement realistic alternatives;
  • Public health: Exploring the role of public health as a related condition to housing insecurity and neighborhood revitalization; and
  • Disaster resiliency: Confronting the reality of forced displacement and the permanent loss of generational wealth and land for residents of vulnerable communities in the wake of catastrophic natural disasters.


Letter of Interest Application Now Open – DEADLINE February 26th  

All cities, towns, and villages in the United States are invited to submit a Letter of Interest by February 26, 2021. Community Progress and the National League of Cities will review all submissions by March 5, 2021 and invite eligible applicants to submit a full application.




Letters of Interest should be submitted by 5:00 pm ET on Friday, February 26th, 2021.


Have questions about the application process or the program more broadly? Be sure to visit our Frequently Asked Questions.


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Program Benefits

Building productive relationships

The Leadership Institute brings together people who are working on common issues in common places but may not have worked together before. Forging these relationships can spark transformative ideas almost immediately.


Moving forward together

In a challenging political and legal environment, it can be all but impossible for even the most well-intentioned local leader to see a way forward. Through the Leadership Institute, participants from Oklahoma City realized they weren’t alone – and this newfound strength in numbers could make all the difference. Forming a coalition of local stakeholders to tackle abandoned buildings emerged as one of the most productive, viable ways of navigating political and legal complexities. The coalition is an exciting mix of stakeholders from public agencies, public interest groups, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and citizen groups. It focuses on understanding vacant, abandoned, and problem properties in Oklahoma City and recommends practical approaches to City, County, and State authorities to begin slowing the problem while preserving and revitalizing neighborhoods.


Creating a coalition for change

Delegations often say that they wish everyone from their hometowns – or even home states – could share in the Leadership Institute experience. Participants from West Virginia set out determined to turn that wish into reality and activate a state coalition of partners committed to positive change. In the months immediately following their Leadership Institute, team members convened the first-ever statewide summit on vacancy and abandonment, bringing home the lessons learned at the Leadership Institute to multiple other cities in the state. This multi-day event fostered statewide knowledge-sharing of best practices, generated a new state legislative reform agenda, and cultivated stronger relationships among practitioners throughout the state.


Shaping legislation and statewide outcomes

Leadership Institute team members almost invariably realize they have a lot in common with the other teams from their state. That natural synergy can give rise to collaborative efforts to knock down common barriers to progress. Many past Leadership Institute participants have successfully championed new state laws to let cities create effective community revitalization tools.


Technical Assistance and Continuing Support

Transformational change takes time, and we view participation in the Leadership Institute as the beginning of a long-term relationship. Following completion of the Leadership Institute Training, Center for Community Progress and the National League of Cities will competitively select three communities to each receive up to 100 hours of technical assistance, building off the knowledge provided by the Leadership Institute.


Award of technical assistance hours will be based on a thorough review of applications and observation during the Leadership Institute. All other communities participating in the Leadership Institute will become members of a Leadership Institute Virtual Learning Network which will continue to build momentum and position their communities for future technical assistance opportunities.

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Program Cost

Community Progress and the National League of Cities are committed to ensuring that change-makers across the country are well-equipped with the vision, knowledge, and leadership skills necessary to support strong, vibrant neighborhoods of opportunity. We recognize that each team’s willingness to spend four days out of the office, engaged in this intense training program, is a serious commitment. As a result, for 2021, we will cover the tuition, meals, and lodging associated with the Leadership Institute. Each participant is responsible for their own travel costs.

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Letter of Interest Requirements

The Letter of Interest will require a response to three narrative questions and submission of a commitment letter from the Office of the Mayor, City Manager, or senior-level administrator which expresses the locality’s commitment to fully participating in the Leadership Institute. Submitting a letter from senior leadership will help ensure those who lead the crucial departments/agencies critical to addressing problem properties are able to fully participate in the leadership institute.


Letter of Interest Eligibility and Selection Criteria

All cities, towns, and villages in the United States are invited to submit a Letter of Interest. Community Progress and the National League of Cities will evaluate each Letter of Interest and Letter of Support based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated Need: A significant challenge with vacant, abandoned, tax delinquent, and/or other problem properties exists, and addressing underlying systems is necessary;
  • Commitment to Addressing Problem Properties: Solving these challenges is a priority for the highest level of local government leaders and decision-makers;
  • Commitment to Equitable Community Development: Recognizing the role institutional racism and oppressive systems play in creating problem properties and committing to equitable and just solutions;
  • Interest in a Multi-Stakeholder Format: Engaging a multi-stakeholder team can clearly help overcome the city’s challenges related to problem properties; and
  • Open Minds: An interest in exploring new ideas and willingness to be challenged about how one’s own City and State address problem properties and how one exercises leadership.


State Delegations

Each delegation will consist of 6-8 representatives from two to three localities, and two state advocates, officials, or legislative leaders. If you have relationships with peers in other jurisdictions in your state that are confronting challenges with vacant, abandoned, and problem properties, we strongly encourage you to reach out to them encouraging submission of a Letter of Interest.


While we encourage cities, towns, and villages from the same state to apply and reference one another, each city must complete and submit their own Letter of Interest. Localities submitting joint letters will not be accepted.


Incomplete submissions will not be reviewed. Letters of Interest that do not respond to all questions will not be considered. No supplemental materials should be provided as part of the Letter of Interest. More information will be requested as part of the application process.


Letter of Interest Deadline

Letters of Interest should be completed and submitted by 5:00pm ET on Friday, February 26, 2021. 

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Program Host Partners

About Center for Community Progress

Founded in 2010, the Center for Community Progress is the national leader for building strong, equitable communities where vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties are transformed into assets for neighbors and neighborhoods. Today, Community Progress has affected change in more than 48 states and seven countries through leadership education and collaborative systems, policy, and practice reforms. Simply, we work to transform “Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places.”  For more information, visit communityprogress.net.


About National League of Cities

The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns, and villages, representing more than 200 million people. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy, and drive innovative solutions. Overall, the work of NLC seeks to help mayors, councilmembers and other local elected and appointed leaders build better communities.


In partnership with 49 state municipal leagues, NLC serves as a resource to and advocate for more than 19,000 cities, villages, and towns. The National League of Cities Institute (NLCI) established in 1958, is the research and education affiliate of NLC and is classified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational organization.


Our Center for City Solutions is the leading source of research, best practices, and technical assistance for city leaders. In addition to our published materials, cohort-based learning and technical assistance is a primary strategy to build capacity and create change in local government. This model enables cities to learn from each other and ensures that NLCI is learning from the practical experience of our members about implementing on-the-ground solutions.


For more information on the National League of Cities, please visit our website at www.nlc.org

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Contact Us

If you have additional questions about the 2021 Vacant Property Leadership Institute, please contact: 


Justin Godard 
Program Officer, National Leadership and Education 
Center for Community Progress 
For questions about the online application process, please contact:  

Lauren Lowery 
Program Director, Housing and Community Development  
National League of Cities  


Timeline and Key Dates 

Letter of Interest Open   

January 27, 2021 

Letter of Interest Deadline   

February 26, 2021  

Notification of Letter of Interest Decision 

March 5, 2021