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tenant associations; and community residents and businesses. The data are used to plan community development and services, prepare grant applications, conduct research, implement programs, and support advocacy efforts.
HUD serves low-income and minority populations in the nation and it is important to include these groups in decision making about their community. How can HUD get the tools of GIS into the hands of citizens so they get involved in their local planning processes? How can HUD link available analytical and decision-making tools with local knowledge to address local needs and priorities in housing and urban development? How can HUD promote spatial analysis of urban and housing issues in its client communities and among its in-house staff? These are among the agency’s challenges in which PD&R plays a central role.
GIS can be used in HUD’s 81 field offices throughout the United States in a number of ways: internally by HUD for many purposes including linking its far-flung field offices, by recipients of HUD grants, and by HUD-related advocacy groups. At present, however, the use of GIS by HUD grant recipients (for instance, entitlement communities) is limited despite efforts to make the technology available (e.g., Community 20/20). Often, these groups are disadvantaged by being disconnected from both the planning and the information technology divisions of local government (Michael Martin, U.S. HUD Milwaukee Field Office, personal communication, 2002).
HUD grantees have tended to use GIS to identify the spatial distribution of their programs, to create visual displays of resource allocation for political and educational purposes, and to advocate programmatic directions. Internally HUD’s regional offices use GIS in a variety of ways, including: ascertaining the eligibility of localities for place-based HUD funding, documenting HUD’s investments, investigating fair housing, and responding to disasters. Most of the GIS efforts in HUD’s field offices do not go beyond point and thematic mapping, because of limited understanding of spatial analysis, comparative spatial statistics, and housing indicator development (Michael Martin, U.S. HUD Milwaukee field office, personal communication, 2002).
Typically, the use of GIS in HUD-related advocacy has revolved around education and communication with traditional HUD intra-agency groups created to help build support for HUD projects and activities. In particular, HUD has used GIS with organizations that promote fair and affordable housing. Specific projects include planning and disseminating information. This includes: answers to the question, “What does HUD fund in my community?”; building a community consensus on affordable housing needs; promoting better understanding of local real estate investment; and multimedia GIS to visualize, and to help non-experts visualize planning project alternatives. Used in these ways, GIS can be an effective tool for encouraging community engagement in decision making and planning.