Resources and Tools
By Victoria Olivier, AICP, Central Maryland Regional Planner
‘Dashboard’ has been trending as one of the top five government jargon terms for the past few years. Many have turned to this data visualization tool to make information more accessible, and to directly and spatially communicate the complicated analytics related to a particular topic. As part of its Housing Element Models and Guidelines (M&G), which we highlighted in last month’s Planning Practice Monthly, the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) jumped on the dashboard wagon with housing planning.
For the dashboard, Planning curated American Community Survey (ACS) data sets that give insights into current housing supply and demand, which can help spark new conversations about housing innovations. A user can type their location of interest (see image below), or choose to view the data at the tract, county, or place (incorporated and designated) levels. Using supply indicators (noted with a house symbol), one can ascertain housing stock diversity by looking at the types and sizes of structures, based on the number of bedrooms, the variety of housing values and monthly rent costs, and homeownership and rental levels.
Planning included a breakdown of Selected Monthly Owner Costs as a Percentage of Household (HH) Income (with mortgage) and ‘Gross Rent as a Percentage of HH Income’ to demonstrate housing burden. The impact of housing burden has been felt even more acutely during the COVID-19 pandemic and can be considered a component of community resiliency, especially at the low income and workforce levels.
ACS data can also show the composition of your community, highlight unique housing needs, like households with seniors or children, indicate which income levels certain households reflect, and how people are getting to work. These data inform strategies for attracting future residents by providing housing opportunities and linking housing to other planning considerations, such as multi-modal transit centers, available infrastructure, local employment, and community amenities, including recreation and open space.
Because HB 1045 (2019) requires that housing elements use the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Area Median Income (AMI) calculations when planning for workforce and low-income housing, it is a key feature of the dashboard, providing a reference point for the ACS findings in the form of an AMI calculator that automatically shows income and housing cost burdened ranges for low income (< 60% AMI) and workforce (60% – 120% AMI) households.
The dashboard also includes other mapping layers as overlays, such as Priority Funding Areas (PFAs), sewer service areas, parcels, and state and federal designations such as Sustainable Communities, Enterprise Zones, and Opportunity Zones to link needs to other resources. Putting ACS and AMI data together in an accessible format is just a first step for this dashboard. In future iterations we plan to incorporate the ability to compare geographies, add new data layers like foreclosures, and integrate data sets from other research efforts and localities.
In the meantime, we hope you find this tool useful and to learn more about how a jurisdiction can use data from this dashboard in a local housing needs assessment, please see the Model Housing Element Development Process section of this Models and Guidelines. For additional data sources check out the Affordable Housing Resources and filter for ‘technical assistance.’
If you have data needs that could inform our future work, or general feedback please submit comments directly using the dashboard’s feedback form, or contact Victoria Olivier, Central Maryland Regional Planner, at email@example.com, and we will see how to make it happen!