Community Strategies

Through its Community Strategies Initiative, NJCC is providing tools, research, and expertise to help local partnerships across the state to reclaim and repurpose their vacant properties and revitalize their communities.

Exacerbated by New Jersey’s ongoing foreclosure and economic crises, housing and commercial vacancies have increased rapidly in our cities and towns over the last decade. In places like Newark, Trenton, and Camden, vacant structures number in the thousands. Such properties destabilize communities, discourage new investment, drain municipal resources, and foster blight and crime. Addressing this challenge adequately requires local leadership, the deployment of new strategies and policies, strategic investment of resources, and an engaged community.

Many local officials and community groups have forged partnerships to respond to their vacant property challenges, and NJCC has supported a number of them from the outset through strategic support and financial investment. In several cities, NJCC was instrumental in helping local players devise plans which allowed them to directly reclaim long-neglected properties and encourage delinquent owners to return them to productivity.

The Community Strategies Initiative builds on these efforts. In 2013, NJCC hired community development expert Diane Sterner to lead the initiative as its first-ever Community Strategies Advisor. Over the last two years under her leadership, NJCC has strengthened existing relationships and built new ones with dozens of local government and community leaders, providing them regular guidance on resources and best practices for rebuilding their distressed housing markets and neighborhoods into places of vitality, investment and opportunity.

The Community Strategies Initiative fosters effective local revitalization strategies through three primary approaches: (1) Facilitating data-driven neighborhood market condition assessments and other community research initiatives, (2) Providing strategic guidance and technical assistance on effective policies and revitalization strategies, and (3) Connecting local community partners to community development resources, including NJCC’s own financing and real estate acquisition and development services. In this work, NJCC partners with many organizations both within and outside New Jersey, including the Center for Community Progress, the Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers/Newark, the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association, the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison College, the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, and Living Cities Newark and the Strong Healthy Communities Initiative in Newark.

Neighborhood Market Condition Assessments

NJCC collaborates with local partners and research organizations to assess neighborhood market conditions and recommend promising solutions for municipalities aiming to devise targeted strategies to address a range of community challenges. These assessments involve assembling and analyzing multi-year data for such market-oriented variables as home sale prices, vacancies, tax sales and foreclosures, as well as social indicators such as crime and poverty levels. The assessments can be used to inform decisions on optimal strategies for reclaiming and repurposing vacant properties in different neighborhoods across a city or town. They can also help communities design new programs to accomplish goals such as increasing home ownership or improving a town's rental housing stock. These assessments can also help communities direct public investment for best results and measure neighborhood improvement over time. To date, NJCC has led the preparation of neighborhood market condition assessments for the cities of Newark and Trenton. 

Other Research and Analysis

NJCC is available to conduct other community-tailored research and analysis to inform revitalization strategies in a specific city or community. This research can help identify the factors contributing to the community’s pressing issues, and recommend promising policies or strategies to support community stabilization or revitalization. Research projects can generate recommendations for comprehensive approaches or address a specific community challenge, such as managing vacant properties, collecting neighborhood-level data, dealing with problem absentee landlords, or promoting public safety.

Strategic Guidance and Policy Support

NJCC works with local governments and community groups to provide the knowledge they need to utilize valuable state and local statutory and regulatory tools to further improve their communities. In particular, NJCC has extensive experience working with the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program (NRTC), the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act (APRA), and local regulatory options such as vacant property and landlord registration programs. By providing government officials and community stakeholders with strategic guidance, NJCC helps tailor strategies for revitalization, build local partnerships, support local planning efforts, and identify new resources.

Get in Touch

For more information, contact Diane Sterner at:

dsterner<at>njclf.com

We would like to acknowledge the services provided by key partner organizations in the collection of our data and production of our reports: Center for Community Progress Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies - Rutgers University Newark