Developing Local Leaders to Restore Vitality to America’s Neighborhoods Impacted by Crisis
The Vacant Property Leadership Institute (VPLI) combines intensive training, targeted 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 properties in their communities.
The Vacant Property Leadership Institute (VPLI) is an intensive training program bringing together leaders from cities across the country to build relationships and networks that last, and hone systems-based approaches that effectively address vacant and deteriorated properties in their communities. VPLI identifies cities ready to take next steps in addressing the full cycle of property revitalization that leads to vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties. Through in-person instruction and targeted technical assistance, we set leaders up for success by helping them:
- better understand the interconnected causes of vacancy and deterioration;
- assess and reform systems at the local and state level that contribute to vacancy;
- strengthen intracity working relationships, build networks with other cities facing similar challenges, and begin developing plans for future initiatives at the local and state levels;
- foster capacity to develop and support statewide policy initiatives; and
- grow in their ability to implement and sustain systemic change.
VPLI is an in-person gathering is scheduled to take place on November 7-10, 2023 at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. Selected communities will also participate in a pre-event virtual gathering scheduled to take place on September 13, 2023.
VPLI is made possible through the generous support of the Wells Fargo Foundation and the Truist Charitable Fund.
The deadline for 2023-24 submissions has passed.
All cities, towns, and villages in the United States are invited to apply.* Interested communities should download and review our VPLI application guide to learn more about the program and how to prepare a competitive application. We will use Swoogo to collect and review applications. All applications are due in the Swoogo portal before 5:00pm ET on Wednesday, February 22, 2023. Community Progress will only review applications received though the Swoogo portal before the application deadline. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Applications submitted via email, Word document, PDF printout, etc. will not be considered.
*Communities and states who participated in the past program cycle of the Vacant Property Leadership Institute (2021-22) are not eligible to apply for the 2023-24 program. Please review the application guide to see the full list of cities/states which are not eligible for this cycle of the program.
Instructions for Accessing Application Portal
Upon opening the Swoogo application portal, click “Create Account”. This will lead you to a form to create a profile in Swoogo. If you already have a Swoogo account, you can simply click on the application portal tab to be sent to a sign in screen. If you are unsure if you already have a Swoogo account, you can create an account with your email and the site will inform you whether an account has already been created.
Once you have created an account and/or logged in, you will be taken to the applicant portal page. From here, click on “+Add New Submission” to create and fill out your application.
Please note that you cannot save an unfinished application within the Swoogo portal. We highly recommend writing out question responses in a separate document while preparing your application. All application questions have been provided in the application guide and can be viewed within the Swoogo portal in a blank application.
Application Requirements and Selection Criteria
The application includes narrative response questions and requests letters of recommendation from various stakeholders including the Office of the Mayor/City Manager/senior-level administrator and a community-based organization embedded in the areas most impacted by VAD properties. While we encourage cities from the same state to apply and reference one another, each city must submit their own, unique application.
Community Progress will prioritize participation for communities that possess:
- Demonstrated need: Competitive applications will show that there are significant challenges with VAD properties, especially in low-income communities and communities of color.
- Demonstrated commitment, leadership, and capacity of stakeholders to implement reform: Competitive applications will include original letters of support from a diverse set of stakeholders, such as local and state policymakers, community leaders, private-sector partners, or philanthropic organizations. The letters should demonstrate that solving VAD property challenges is a priority for the highest level of local government leaders and decision-makers.
- Interest in a diverse, multi-stakeholder format: VPLI catalyzes problem-solving across organizational, functional, and political lines. The strongest applicants will provide specific examples to show how engaging a multi-stakeholder team can help overcome the city’s challenges related to VAD properties.In addition to the required participants noted under Delegation Composition above, the most competitive applications will propose a diverse list of additional participants drawing from organizations working in the communities most affected by vacancy, private-sector partners, state-level champions, and others focused on revitalization.
- Demonstrated commitment to equitable community development: Community Progress recognizes that because of a legacy of unjust policies and racist systems, low-income communities and communities of color bear an unfair share of the burden of VAD properties. Competitive applications will show a willingness for the applicants to be open and honest about ways in which these oppressive systems fuel vacancy and abandonment. Competitive applications will highlight efforts to address root causes of VAD properties in ways that tackle unjust systems head-on to foster equitable community development and opportunities.
- Open minds: Effective change-makers need bold vision and courage to drive meaningful change in the face of obstacles. Doing so requires exploring new ideas and being willing to challenge how one’s city and state address VAD properties. Competitive applications will demonstrate this willingness to have candid conversations about your city’s successes and failures.
Vacant Property Leadership Institute Program Details
VPLI helps participants better understand the interconnected causes of problem properties, assess and reform contributing state and local systems, and develop action plans, networks, and skills to champion systemic change to create equitable communities. VPLI engages up to three cities each across three states (nine cities total) in training, technical assistance, and networking to help them as they work to transform their states and communities.
Delegations Based Approach
Each selected city delegation will consist of four to six members representing the critical stakeholders necessary to drive change. If you have relationships with other cities in your state similarly confronting challenges with VAD properties, we strongly suggest you encourage them to apply as well.
Through classroom sessions and small group activities, our faculty of top national experts and local practitioners will guide participants through sessions on these and other topics:
Through a mix of classroom sessions and small working group activities, our team of national experts and local practitioners from around the country will guide participants through sessions on the following topics, and more:
- Collaborative leadership: Strengthening leaders' ability to collectively shape and execute solutions
- Data and neighborhood markets: Using data to understand and plan accordingly for the opportunities and constraints that shape revitalization
- Strategic housing and building code enforcement: Developing programs that respond to the 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 land banking to eliminate properties' liabilities so they can return to productive, community-aligned use
- Vacant land stewardship: Demonstrating how to identify, fund, and implement realistic plans for repurposing vacant lots
Technical Assistance & Continuing Support
Addressing vacancy is a big problem that requires big solutions and it cannot be solved overnight. Your participation in VPLI is the beginning of a relationship with Community Progress to ensure you have the support you need to create long-term solutions. Immediately following VPLI, Community Progress will invite participating cities to apply for a Technical Assistance Award. These competitive Technical Assistance Awards make the lessons from VPLI actionable. A total of 1,000 hours of customized, expert guidance from our technical assistance team will be divided among the awarded communities to help each community shape and sustain policy, practice, and process changes to address vacancy and abandonment.
Tuition and Cost
Community Progress is 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 a week away from the office, engaged in intense training, is a serious commitment. Therefore, there are no tuition fees associated with VPLI and Community Progress will cover hotel accommodations, food and beverage, and onsite transportation. Each participant is responsible for travel costs (airfare, rental car, taxi fare, etc.) to get them to and from VPLI.
Past VPLI participants attest that the program is unlike any professional development opportunity they’ve attended and that the mix of classroom learning and networking to have been invaluable to their daily work. VPLI participants have gone on to pass state and local laws that enable them to effectively address issues of vacancy; implemented comprehensive revitalization solutions in some of their most vulnerable communities; broken down agency and sector silos; and developed lasting, fruitful relationships with peers in their cities and states, and across the country. Read more about how 2022 VPLI delegation from Louisville, Kentucky leveraged the knowledge from the institute to examine and transform their code enforcement strategy through a racial equity lens.
“Participating in the Leadership Institute has allowed me to think even more outside of the box when dealing with some of our everyday work and trying to find new solutions to old problems”
Anonymous Survey Respondent, 2016