FLINT, Mich. – The local governments of Atlanta, Georgia; Butte-Silver Bow, Montana; and Lafayette, Louisiana are the inaugural recipients of the Center for Community Progress’ new, blight-fighting Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP). Through TASP, the Center for Community Progress (Community Progress), a national nonprofit, will help these cities develop new strategies to address property blight, vacancy and abandonment.
Atlanta, Butte-Silver Bow, and Lafayette were chosen through a competitive Request for Applications (RFA) process. Through the application process, each city requested assistance in one or more of TASP’s key issue areas, which include topics such as tax collection and enforcement reform, data and information systems, and vacant land maintenance and reuse strategies.
Each city will receive up to 200 hours of reduced-cost assistance from a team of experts. Technical assistance will take place throughout the remainder of 2014 and may include, for example, staff training sessions, property data analysis, or tailored reports with recommended changes.
In Atlanta, Community Progress will work with staff at the City of Atlanta and the Fulton County/City of Atlanta Land Bank on using delinquent property tax enforcement systems and housing and building codes to strengthen municipal responses to blight, vacancy and abandonment in distressed neighborhoods.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the City of Atlanta to receive technical assistance from top professionals in the field and we look forward to learning best practices from other cities,” said Deputy Commissioner Terri M. Lee, Department of Planning and Community Development. “Community Progress’ expertise will help us enhance our successful neighborhood stabilization platform. One of our top goals is to look at how we can improve on what we’re currently doing and determine the impact that tax delinquency and other vacant property issues have on neighborhood health and stabilization.”
In Butte-Silver Bow, work will focus on how code enforcement can be strategically deployed and on finding new ways that the merged city-county government can promote collaboration across departments to support historic preservation, well-maintained buildings and stable neighborhoods.
“Butte, Montana is excited about this opportunity to work with the Center for Community Progress,” said Jim Jarvis, Historic Preservation Officer. “Their widespread expertise and knowledge will help us improve the tools and tactics we use here to address our problems with vacant and abandoned buildings.”
In Lafayette, the focus is on data. “Good data systems are really the crux of effective vacant property work, from understanding the problem to choosing the right response,” Shapiro said. The Louisiana city is interested in developing a unified geographic information system (GIS)-based property and market database, making it easy to understand what is happening on the ground, at the parcel level, all across the city. Community Progress will assess the Lafayette Consolidated Government’s current property data tracking processes and identify opportunities for improvement.
“Lafayette is thankful and excited to be a recipient of a Technical Assistance Scholarship from the Center for Community Progress,” said Kevin Blanchard, chief development officer of Lafayette Consolidated Government. “Our comprehensive plan calls for a renewed effort to deal with problem, blighted, and adjudicated properties. This puts us on the right path towards resolving a problem that is holding our neighborhoods back.”
Since its founding in 2010, the Flint, Michigan-based Center for Community Progress has provided technical assistance to more than 100 communities across 22 states. Community Progress launched TASP in early 2014 in response to two needs: first, the need to provide individual cities with affordable, high-quality guidance in the fight to remediate blighted, vacant properties, and second, the need to develop fresh approaches to blight that could become models other cities will learn from.
“The teams in Atlanta, Butte-Silver Bow, and Lafayette all demonstrated a heartfelt commitment to developing new approaches to problem properties,” said Shapiro. “We’re just as committed to supporting their good work and ready for these new partnerships to get underway.”
More information about the Technical Assistance Scholarship Program is available on the Center for Community Progress website.
About Center for Community Progress
Founded in 2010, the Center for Community Progress is the only national 501(c)3 nonprofit organization solely dedicated to building a future in which entrenched, systemic blight no longer exists in American communities. The mission of Community Progress is to ensure that communities have the vision, knowledge, and systems to transform blighted, vacant, and other problem properties into assets supporting neighborhood vitality. As a national leader on solutions for blight and vacancy, Community Progress serves as the leading resource for local, state and federal policies and best practices that address the full cycle of property revitalization, from blight prevention, through the acquisition and maintenance of problem properties, to their productive reuse. Major support for Community Progress is generously provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Ford Foundation.