Technical Assistance Scholarships

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Technical Assistance Scholarships (TAS) enable the pilot and design of new programs and practices that became models for the broader field to emulate and implement to address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties.

Through TAS, Community Progress provides customized technical assistance at no cost or a significant discount to:

  • Support communities most in need
  • Connect and partner with visionary practitioners and local leaders who are committed to equity
  • Pilot innovations in the broader field of community development and neighborhood revitalization

Technical Assistance Scholarship: Code Enforcement

Application Opens: February 22, 2024
Application Review Period: April 1, 2024, on a rolling basis
Application Closes: May 31, 2024, or when scholarship funding has been exhausted
Scholarship Period: April 2024–December 15, 2024

We are launching our current round of TAS alongside our new national publication, Reevaluating Code Enforcement: A New Approach to Problem Properties. Scholarships will be awarded to those communities inspired by the publication’s challenge to shift from a traditional code enforcement approach to a strategic code compliance approach to help address VAD properties.

As the publication documents, a strategic code compliance framework is not only more effective and efficient, but also supportive of broader community development goals, like resiliency, housing security, neighborhood safety, and racial justice.

We are excited to partner with communities willing to critically evaluate the broken status quo and explore, pilot, and implement innovative policies and practices that lead to more just and equitable outcomes for residents most impacted by VAD properties.

For questions, please email Tarik Abdelazim, Vice President of Technical Assistance, at [email protected].

The Need

Housing and building code enforcement’s primary function is to protect and strengthen public health and safety. It is also one of a government’s most important tools to stabilize and strengthen neighborhoods. Our experience working with hundreds of diverse communities across the country, however, has shown that the traditional approach to code enforcement is due for urgent review and reevaluation, particularly in neighborhoods with weak housing markets, high levels of poverty, and widespread vacancy.

Traditionally, most local governments rely on complaints to identify violations, and civil and criminal penalties to enforce local property maintenance ordinances. This reactive and punitive-centric approach may be effective in stable or strong real estate markets and when owners have the resources to make repairs. However, in weak real estate markets, this approach is often inequitable, inefficient, and ineffective. Many low-income homeowners lack the resources to make repairs, and most corporate landlords, knowing they can avoid prosecution, reject investments in routine maintenance to protect and maximize profit margins. And the metrics used by most code enforcement departments to track success—how many tickets were issued and how much in fines were levied—don’t align with the goals of compliance, public health and safety, and neighborhood vitality.

There is an urgent need, especially for those communities that struggle with VAD properties, to shift from traditional code enforcement to strategic code compliance—an approach that is far more equitable, effective, and efficient. Our first round of technical assistance scholarships in 2024 will help communities make this shift.

The Scholarship

Each successful applicant will be awarded approximately 200 hours of customized technical assistance from a team of experts at Community Progress. The value of these services is approximately $50,000, but the scholarship will fully underwrite these costs. No cash contribution will be required of selected scholarship recipients.

Eligible Applicants

Local governments that serve jurisdictions with populations between 25,000 and 500,000 (based on 2020 Census) are eligible to apply. Strong preference will be given to communities with significant levels of VAD properties.

Eligible Activities

This round of TAS has an exclusive focus on helping local governments reevaluate their housing and building code enforcement systems to address VAD properties. Such activities may include:

  • Exploring the implementation of any of the recommended core policies in our new publication, Reevaluating Code Enforcement: A New Approach to Problem Properties;
  • Educating and engaging key decision-makers, community partners, and code enforcement staff to build consensus and support for a shift from traditional code enforcement to strategic code compliance;
  • Conducting a review of current code enforcement practices and policies through the lens of racial equity and justice, and identifying reforms that yield more equitable outcomes;
  • Helping departments gather and analyze data and outcomes of current practices, and rethinking data practices and metrics that align with the primary goals of compliance and equity;
  • Designing new programs, partnerships or educational resources that represent a shift from a punitive to a compliance-oriented approach; or
  • Identifying local and/or state legal barriers, and providing guidance on how to introduce, champion, and win critical policy reforms.

Community Progress delivers technical assistance informed by and tailored to the unique needs of each community. Thus, the above list is illustrative, not exhaustive. We encourage creative project ideas that reflect the specific needs and circumstances of your community—applicants should propose what would be most helpful in advancing this needed shift from traditional code enforcement to strategic code compliance as it relates to VAD properties.

Interested applicants are encouraged to read our new national publication, Reevaluating Code Enforcement: A New Approach to Problem Properties, for ideas and inspiration.

Application and Application Process

The application closed May 31, 2024. Community Progress will be in touch with applicants about next steps soon.

Selection Process

  • On a rolling basis, Community Progress will invite applicants with competitive proposals to discuss and potentially further develop the proposal on a one-hour call with Community Progress staff.
  • Following the call, Community Progress may invite the applicant to submit a revised and finalized proposal with select additional materials, such as letters of support from key partners or preliminary data to support the need for technical assistance work.

Application Criteria

Applications will be reviewed subject to the following criteria:

  • Scope and scale of VAD properties (based on application responses and/or our team’s internal review of most recent census and market data)
  • Evidence of neighborhood disparities or market and demographic indicators that suggest widespread disinvestment (based on application responses and/or our team’s internal review of most recent census and market data)
  • Demonstrated commitment to improving policies and/or practices in support of more equitable outcomes
  • Level of interest and commitment to the project from elected officials and community partners
  • Willingness to involve residents most impacted by VAD properties in the project
  • Likelihood of project success or opportunity to learn critical insights that can benefit the national field of practice