The Vacant Property Research Network (VPR Network) began with a seemingly simple idea that was long overdue: To make a home for the findings of research to reach the hands of practitioners who work with vacancy and blight in cities, and to also bring the wisdom of real-life practice into the minds of researchers who seek to understand and illuminate blight’s causes and solutions.
Since 2011, with generous support from the Ford Foundation, we have brought people together, face to face and in ongoing working groups, to share knowledge and connections between academia and the field. We create and support partnerships between researchers, academic institutions, policy makers, and practitioners to define the magnitude and dimensions of blight, understand neighborhood change, and track the most current research and practice in areas such as urban greening, community development and planning, and code enforcement. We do this in the context of issues and concerns that have not previously been well-integrated into the discussion, from public health and longevity to the study of partnership, civic engagement, and leadership for resilient cities, from the management of information systems to track neighborhood conditions and provide open, shared data among agencies and with the public.
VPR Network’s work focuses on what people are really doing right now to address vacancy in their communities. We seek out the interplay among three crucial elements that seem to be present in places that are adaptive and resilient to change, and resistant to or recovering from neighborhood decline and abandonment:
- collaborative networks,
- data-driven actions, and
- strategic, responsive policy processes
As creative responses continue to emerge from pioneering cities—from Cleveland and Detroit to Fresno and Flint—the charge for the VPR Network is to facilitate the design and transfer of innovative policies and programs for reclaiming vacant and abandoned properties and for aligning neighborhood revitalization and city-wide regeneration plans and initiatives.