Community Progress is the leading national resource for high-impact, cutting edge technical assistance to address the negative impacts and challenges of vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties in a manner that supports equitable development, inclusive neighborhoods, and resilient communities.
If you are ready to transform your community, we can help. Community Progress brings proven best practices, unmatched technical expertise, and a commitment to equity and justice to provide the support you need to address VAD properties and revitalize your communities that benefit all residents.
We deploy this expertise in support of equitable development, inclusive neighborhoods, and resilient communities, as tackling VAD properties can open up pathways to address some of the greatest challenges facing our communities, such as the housing affordability crisis, a racialized wealth gap, climate change and natural disasters, and housing injustice.
Since our launch in 2010, Community Progress has provided technical assistance and support to more than 300 communities in 35 states. Our skilled staff, advisors, fellows, and consultants have helped communities across the U.S. assess, reform, develop, and/or implement systems and policies to more effectively address the challenges and costs imposed by vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties with a focus on equity, inclusion, and resiliency.
To find out more, or to request technical assistance, please contact Tarik Abdelazim, Director of National Technical Assistance, at email@example.com.
A team of experts from Community Progress will dive in to review the challenges your city or town faces related to the cycle of vacancy and building healthy communities. Tasks may include:
- Diagnosing the underlying factors that keep problem properties “stuck” in decline, which negatively impact neighbors and neighborhoods
- Helping communities understand their existing tools and legal powers, and design and implement new tools and solutions appropriate to local conditions and resident priorities
- Supporting the development of data-driven strategies, including innovative partnerships and funding sources, to increase the effectiveness of local efforts in support of equitable outcomes
- Guiding implementation of a community’s equitable, effective, and efficient approach to VAD properties and neighborhood disinvestment to help ensure success
In varying degrees, vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties exist in all communities and all states across the U.S. Our expert team members have worked with metropolitan centers, small cities, suburbs, and rural towns, as well as statewide coalitions, to tailor strategies, reforms, and policies that address that community’s unique challenges of vacancy and abandonment. Our goal is to offer local and state leaders new tools and knowledge, ultimately supporting their efforts to create more equitable, inclusive, healthy, and resilient neighborhoods for all.
We work closely with partner communities to customize our services to meet local conditions, needs, and priorities. Our areas of expertise include:
- Comprehensive Assessment of Policies and Systems Related to Vacancy and Abandonment
- Property Data Collection and Management Practices
- Strategic Code Enforcement
- Property Tax Enforcement and Foreclosure Reform
- Land Banks and Land Banking
- Vacant Land Maintenance, Open Space Planning, and Reuse Strategies
Fee-for-service is the primary way in which we provide cutting-edge technical support and assistance to partner communities. We will provide a custom design and quote after we learn more about your challenges and needs.
Technical Assistance Scholarship Opportunities
If your community is struggling with systemic vacancy or disinvested neighborhoods but do not have the budget for fee-for-service technical assistance, a scholarship may be available. Our team actively seeks partnerships with national foundations or other funders to underwrite scholarships that we offer competitively to local governments and community partners.
Currently we have one opportunity available, the Land Bank Incubator Scholarship Program, Learn more >
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.
Comprehensive Assessment of Policies and Systems Related to Vacancy and Abandonment
Utica, New York (2020)
Community Progress worked with local officials and community partners in the City of Utica (NY) to carry out a preliminary assessment of the City’s policies, programs, tools, and operations in place to address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties. The engagement was conducted virtually due to COVID-19. The final memorandum (September 2020) offers preliminary observations of current conditions and challenges, as well as recommendations that the City and its partners might consider as they move forward with their efforts to comprehensively and effectively address the negative impacts of problem properties, which should be understood as a key part of an equitable approach to neighborhood stabilization and revitalization.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina (2019)
Community Progress partnered with the City of Winston-Salem to help local officials and their partners better understand the systemic causes of and develop local solutions to vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties. The focus of the engagement was to assess the systems and local practices related to VAD properties, including but not limited to data and information management systems and practices, housing and building code enforcement systems and practices, delinquent property tax enforcement systems and practices, and the acquisition and disposition of VAD properties. The report provides detailed observations of the status quo, and offers a comprehensive menu of options for local officials and their partners to consider as it seeks to build more inclusive and equitable neighborhoods for all residents in Winston-Salem.
Waterbury, Connecticut (2017)
Community Progress conducted a comprehensive assessment of systemic legal, policy, and operational challenges related to vacancy and abandonment in the City of Waterbury. The final report (PDF) (1) documents Waterbury’s current approach to vacancy and abandonment; (2) unpacks the legal and policy framework of existing state and local statutes on housing and building code enforcement, delinquent property tax enforcement, and public acquisition and disposition of vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties; and (3) offers key recommendations on how the City can build upon some positive practices to advance a comprehensive, data-driven, well-coordinated approach to vacancy and abandonment.
Parcel Data and Neighborhood Market Data
Hartford, Connecticut (2019)
Community Progress was retained by the Hartford Land Bank, with the support of the Hartford Foundation and LISC Hartford, to conduct an analysis of small area, or neighborhood, housing market conditions and trends in the city of Hartford. From the research and analysis, identifying challenges and opportunities, Community Progress offered a series of policies and strategies for local decision-makers and partners to consider in order to more equitably address neighborhood disinvestment and decline, improve property conditions, and build stronger housing markets in Hartford.
Trenton, New Jersey (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.
Strategic Code Enforcement
Columbus, Georgia (2019)
Community Progress was asked by the Columbus Land Bank Authority (CLBA) and local government partners for technical guidance and support in assessing and improving their code enforcement systems, and potentially linking code enforcement strategies and land banking strategies to transform vacant, abandoned properties to assets for neighbors and neighborhoods. Following months of research, analysis, and interviews, Community Progress submitted to local officials this memorandum, which provides an overview of state and local authority for addressing vacant and deteriorated properties through (i) housing and building code adoption, (ii) general lien enforcement, (iii) judicial in rem demolition lien enforcement, and (iv) blight condemnation. This memorandum also includes an analysis of the housing and building code enforcement tools currently available in Columbus, and a series of tables that describe the likely property outcomes upon application of the various tools. Finally, the memorandum offers observations and recommendations for consideration and discussion by the CLBA and Columbus leadership, and various tables and sample decision trees for use by Columbus leaders as they consider variables relevant to the use of a tool.
Mobile, Alabama (2016 – 2017)
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 that authorizes the City (and only the City of Mobile) to implement a system of housing and building code enforcement through judicial in rem proceedings. The bill was introduced in 2017, and in May 2017, the Alabama Governor signed the bill into law. Community Progress then provided the City technical assistance in drafting a local ordinance to implement the new in rem code enforcement procedure, consistent with state law. Mobile City Council approved the local ordinance in December 2017, and now has a more equitable, efficient, and effective approach to code enforcement for vacant and abandoned properties.
Property Tax Enforcement and Foreclosure Reform
Huntington, West Virginia (2017)
As part of our Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), Community Progress worked with the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority and a network of statewide partners to (1) highlight the economic and human costs of vacancy and abandonment in Huntington, West Virginia, and (2) help develop resources that can be used by statewide partners to educate state and local policymakers about how the delinquent property tax enforcement system in WV exacerbates these costs. The final report (PDF) included a comprehensive summary and a first-of-its-kind infographic of the state’s complicated delinquent property tax enforcement system; a summary of the human, economic, and fiscal costs of vacancy and abandonment; and a menu of policy and legislative reforms to create a more equitable, efficient, and effective approach to vacancy and abandonment.
Baltimore, Maryland (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 (PDF) provides a general overview of observations of current policies and operations and a menu of recommendations, including the abolition of the sale of tax liens and the creation instead of an optimal tax enforcement 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.
Our Baltimore TASP report accelerated calls for action, which prompted the Maryland General Assembly in June 2017 to create, via legislation, a Task Force to Study Tax Sales in Maryland, and named Community Progress to serve on the Task Force. The Task Force released its final report on January 18, 2018, which, among other recommendations, called for granting municipalities the option to implement a new tax enforcement system modeled after the one outlined in this Community Progress report. Legislation granting municipalities this option was passed and signed into law April 2019 (Judicial In Rem Tax Foreclosure Bill, SB509).
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.
Land Banks and Land Banking
Albuquerque, New Mexico (2019)
Community Progress was invited by local leaders in Albuquerque to help evaluate the feasibility of land banking to address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties. Following preliminary review of local parcel data, analysis of state and local laws, thoughtful interviews, and a two-day site, a final report was developed and shared with local partners, providing them with the foundation necessary to understand (1) whether land banking is a feasible or necessary tool to address vacant, abandoned, and substandard properties in Albuquerque; and, if so, (2) what steps need to be taken to ensure this tool is best deployed in an effective, efficient, and equitable manner. In addition to the land bank feasibility analysis, the report includes observations and recommendations regarding data collection and analysis, housing and building code enforcement policies and practices, and delinquent tax enforcement.
Houston Land Bank, Texas (2019)
Community Progress worked with the Houston Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority, now known as the Houston Land Bank, to help identify and develop new legislative and policy tools that would allow the Houston Land Bank to more flexibly address the needs and priorities for land throughout Houston, particularly in neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Harvey as well as decades of disinvestment. The final report captures the breadth of educational activities, legal research, and policy work completed by Community Progress under this engagement, and may be particularly useful for communities seeking to identify and approach the development of new legislative tools to address vacancy and abandonment caused or exacerbated by disinvestment and natural disaster.
Albany County Land Bank, New York (2017)
As part of our Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), Community Progress worked with the Albany County Land Bank (ACLB) and the Albany Community Land Trust (ACLT) to explore a framework for increased collaboration in support of common goals: addressing vacant and abandoned properties; preserving affordability; and supporting inclusive and equitable revitalization efforts. The report (PDF) summarizes four partnership opportunities that were advanced during this engagement: (1) Inclusive Neighborhoods Pilot Program, in which ACLB is offering ACLT exclusive “first look” of eligible residential properties in more stable neighborhoods with stronger housing markets in order to support more permanent affordable homeownership choices; (2) Community Maintenance and Stewardship Pilot Program between ACLT and ACLB, in which ACLT will assemble and support land stewards with tools and small stipends to provide seasonal maintenance on a small number of ACLB lots in a specific neighborhood where there is high density of ACLT tenants and homeowners; (3) Breathing Blocks Concept, 3rd Street Corridor Pilot, and Community Event “Lots to Do, Lots for You,” which offers a conceptual framework for identifying blocks to receive layered investments and interventions from multiple partners in a coordinated manner to activate and tip the underlying markets; and (4) Vacant Land Work Group and Resident Learning Exchange, which provides organizational structure, resident education, policy research, and resources to ensure vacant land maintenance and reuse remains a priority in Albany long after the TASP engagement.
Vacant Land Maintenance, Open Space Planning, and Reuse Strategies
Lucas County and City of Toledo, Ohio (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 (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.