On April 12, 2017, it was announced that Albany, New York; Huntington, West Virginia; and Memphis, Tennessee, are the 2017 recipients of the Center for Community Progress’ Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP).
Through TASP, the Center for Community Progress (Community Progress), a national nonprofit, will help local governments and other stakeholders break new ground in their efforts to revitalize by addressing property vacancy, abandonment, and deterioration.
The three recipients were chosen through a competitive process, which included a written application round followed by an in-person site assessment for five finalists. Proposed projects are reviewed on a range of criteria, including the potential for innovation from which other cities can learn, demonstrated leadership to implement reform, overall scale of vacancy challenges, and need for outside assistance.
“Albany, Huntington, and Memphis have each demonstrated a commitment to strengthening their revitalization work to benefit local residents,” said Tamar Shapiro, former president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress. “We are excited to work in each of these places to pioneer strategies that will not only help these communities, but also other places that will learn from these efforts.”
Each city will receive up to 400 hours of assistance from a team of national experts over eight months between April and November 2017. Assistance may include a diagnosis of the most pressing problems, evaluation of current systems and strategies, and recommendations on solutions that involve key government decision-makers, residents, and other stakeholders. Grant funding from JPMorgan Chase provides the program’s support.
“Addressing blight is one of the most impactful ways to improve neighborhoods and local economies,” said Janis Bowdler, Head of Community Development at JPMorgan Chase. “By arming city leadership with technical assistance through the Center for Community Progress, we are giving them the tools they need to drive inclusive economic growth in a highly tactical and productive way.”
Albany, New York
In Albany, technical assistance will strengthen the partnership between the Albany County Land Bank and the Albany Community Land Trust. Land banks and community land trusts are each critical tools in the work to address vacancy and abandonment, but around the country, their efforts have rarely intersected.
This innovative partnership will demonstrate how, by working together on tangible projects, land banks and community land trusts can strengthen each other’s efforts in support of improved community outcomes. This kind of partnership was recommended in a recent REVITALIZATION editorial by Storm Cunningham.
“This honor from the Center for Community Progress highlights the good works done by the Land Bank and its progress toward renewing our community,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “It also confirms that our investment in the Land Bank is bringing returns for potential home buyers and the taxpayers.”
Huntington, West Virginia
In Huntington, technical assistance will help the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority and other local and statewide stakeholders unpack the costs that vacant and abandoned properties impose on municipal government and residents. This work will focus on delinquent tax enforcement systems, public safety, and neighborhood stabilization.
The goal is to raise awareness among rural communities seeking to better understand the costs of, and solutions for, vacancy and abandonment in West Virginia and beyond. Huntington was the subject of a recent Feature Article in REVITALIZATION.
“We are honored to be a recipient of a technical assistance scholarship from the Center for Community Progress. We have been innovative in addressing our vacant and abandoned properties, and we intend to set a standard that others will follow,” said Mayor Steve Williams. “The Center for Community Progress is a leading advocate on addressing distressed properties and has been an active partner with the City of Huntington. We look forward to expanding that relationship further.”
In Memphis, technical assistance will assess the legal systems pertaining to receivership and property tax enforcement. It will identify reforms that will support the transfer of clear, marketable title to the Blight Authority of Memphis (BAM). This project will be an innovative, tangible example of how receivership can work alongside property tax enforcement and land banking to support clear, marketable title for properties.
“Our administration is focused on reducing blight — both to aid our core city’s renaissance and to simply give every Memphian a neighborhood they can be proud of,” said Mayor Jim Strickland. “We’re grateful for this assistance from the Center for Community Progress, which we think will only further amplify what we’re doing in Memphis.”
Since its founding in 2010, the Center for Community Progress has provided technical assistance to more than 200 communities across 30 states. Community Progress launched TASP in 2014 in response to two needs: first, the need to develop fresh approaches to problem properties that could become models for cities to replicate, and second, the need to provide individual cities with affordable, high-quality guidance in the fight to remediate vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties.
This is the fifth round of the Technical Assistance Scholarship Program. Prior recipients are: Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Butte-Silver Bow, Montana; Lafayette, Louisiana; Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; High Point, North Carolina; Trenton, New Jersey; Cleveland, Ohio; Lucas County, Ohio; Rockford, Illinois; and St. Louis, Missouri.
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 vacancy and abandonment no longer exists in American communities. The mission of Community Progress is to ensure that communities have the vision, knowledge, and systems to transform vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties into assets supporting neighborhood vitality. As a national leader on solutions for vacancy and abandonment, 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.
Photo is of New York State Capitol in Albany being restored. Credit: Storm Cunningham.