May 8, 2012

A Revolution in Planning

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It used to be that HUD would require more than 1,200 cities, counties and states to undergo a paper-based, time-intensive and costly planning process as a condition of receiving billions of dollars in federal funding. No more. HUD is launching the eCon Planning Suite, a set of 21st Century data and technology tools to help communities make sure scarce federal dollars are targeted to where they are needed most and can achieve the biggest impact.  And on top of that, it’s estimated this new approach will save state and local communities at least 65,000 staff hours each year and THOUSANDS of dollars in consultant fees.

These new 21st Century tools will support communities in need-driven, place-based decision-making that will improve community and economic development outcomes – in short, targeting federal funds to the places that need it most.

HUD’s new approach to planning will also empower the public in a way we’ve never been able to before.  Imagine, anyone can log on to a new mapping tool (we call it CPD Maps) and see precisely where the need is in their neighborhoods, where investments have been made, and be more informed when they argue for their vision of where federal tax dollars ought to be targeted.  This is democracy in data!

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan put it this way, “We know that in a time of huge budget cuts at the state and local level, it’s harder and harder to have the resources to bring that information together. This technology that we’re providing is going to be really revolutionary in helping all of our grantees work smarter.”

For the first time ever, HUD is offering the following data through this user-friendly tool, not only to its grantee community but to the public at large:

Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) from the U.S. Census Bureau which describes housing problems and needs of extremely low-, low-, and moderate-income households;

American Community Survey (2005-09) offers Census data on population demographics, description of housing stock (cost, condition) and workforce characteristics, such as earnings by sector and travel time to work;

Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) from Census describes changes in jobs and labor force over time;

Public and Indian Housing Information Center (PIC) from HUD provides information about the characteristics of public housing residents;

Continuum of Care Point-in-Time homeless counts from 3,000 cities and counties offer data on the nature and extent of homelessness; and

Location data from HUD, U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency which displays the location/concentration of CDBG, HOME, HUD Multi-family housing developments, public housing, Section 8 vouchers, DOT data on fixed rail transit stops and FEMA floodplains.

But don’t take our word for it…we’ve tested these new planning tools in the real world and the early returns are in!


“These new tools that HUD is making available are coming at such a critical time. When every dollar matters now more than ever before, these tools allow us to really target in a strategic way the resources that we do have, and then to make sure we’re connecting those HUD resources with all of the other parts of the City.” — Fresno, California Mayor Ashley Swearengin

“This tool will allow us to do more need-driven, place-based work where we can actually target what we have to do in the community, what is needed in the community, rather than trying to match funding streams. The data that it will provides real information that can be used for effective planning in the neighborhoods.” — Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker

“I think it allows the state government agencies to be able to look more at a regional basis, which we haven’t been able to do as much before. The template and the data were more set up for the local governments. And in this case now, we think we’ll be able to look at regional markets, and then local markets within that particular region. It’s going to allow us to save some staff time, in creating the plan. It’s also going to be much more transparent for the general public, to be able to participate in the process.” — Aaron Gornstein, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development

“Secretary Donovan has done an unbelievable job with his team at HUD in providing technical services, data, and resources and has challenged us to put together a comprehensive plan that breaks down the silos between and amongst all of the different organizations in city government so that we could come up with a unified plan. That helps us plan better, it helps us execute better, and it helps us create a clear vision.” — New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

“I think that providing the information to community residents – making it available, easily understood, and tied to a planning process about how to spend resources, how to improve community, really democratizes the data and allows for the kind of participation that changes communities.” — Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO, PolicyLink

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