and Research (PD&R) uses geographic information systems (GIS)2 to analyze neighborhood change and market trends affecting the housing market, and to understand the relationship between transit and housing in lifting people out of poverty. Research done by HUD program offices, such as PD&R, has determined factors that contribute to the overall effectiveness of various housing programs, and characteristics of neighborhoods requiring incentives to promote the use of Section 8 low-income vouchers. HUD research is aimed at developing planning measures to meet the varied needs of dislocated residents and to improve the dispersion of low-income residents throughout the city and region.
HUD and the local public housing officials work with partners in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to plan the best course of action. Local officials use GIS to determine where community block grants and new community facilities are most needed. The public housing residents had already used an online GIS program at their local housing authority. They understood that GIS can be used to consider housing options under the Section 8 program based on criteria that are important to Our Town residents, such as the vacancies’ proximity to quality schools, public transportation, entry-level employment opportunities, and special medical or social services. As a result of the information they have obtained from HUD, the local housing officials feel confident that investment in their chosen initiative will help provide decent, safe, and affordable housing, and support a safe and prosperous community.
The story of Our Town highlights HUD’s role in providing data and information for communities across the nation. Created in 1965 to address civil rights, urban poverty, and the state of American cities, HUD is an agency with a mission to increase homeownership, support community development, and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination (HUD, 2002). Many of the issues and problems that HUD must address are geographic in nature pertaining to: location, e.g., of housing and jobs; spatial relationships, e.g., among a neighborhood, a city, and a region; and the qualities of place, e.g., patterns of crime or environmental quality. To carry out their mission and to address complex issues of urban poverty and the declining state of American cities, HUD needs to collect and disseminate relevant data, carry out research, and partner effectively with other actors in the urban arena.