Tech-Friendly: Online tools for local poverty, crime and public housing research

Paul Gorski
Paul Gorski

By Paul Gorski

Ron Clewer, CEO of the Rockford Housing Authority, recently “called for a community discussion to develop a strategy for housing that will address poor quality housing, quality affordable housing and locations where residents want to live” following a Rockford City Council vote against supporting a specific public housing reinvestment plan. Read Clewer’s comments at “Guest Column: Housing Authority CEO: Time to unify behind quality living,” posted online Jan. 26, http://rockrivertimes.com/2015/01/26/guest-column-housing-authority-ceo-time-to-unify-behind-quality-living/.

My advice to Mr. Clewer and Mayor Morrissey: find out what the questions the aldermen have and do not come back until you have answers for most of them. Only debate the issue at the public meetings after trying to address questions from the aldermen.

To the city council and concerned residents, feel free to do some of your own homework. If you want a snapshot of local poverty, education, homelessness and other related statistics, you could start at the Social Impact Research Center’s Report on Illinois Poverty, Winnebago County, at: http://www.ilpovertyreport.org/county/winnebago-county#.VNFMBCljoyF.

A map of local poverty, using 2011 data, may be found at City-Data.com: http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Rockford-Illinois.html. While not directly related, NeighborhoodScout.com offers a map of local crime statistics at http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/il/rockford/crime/. Note that the high-crime areas from one map do not necessarily overlap with the high-poverty areas of the first map.

For those aldermen and other officials looking for best practices in public housing and public housing programs, start at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Resources for Community and Supportive Services best practices page at: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/ph/hope6/css/resources#bestpractices. Specifically, you should read “Best Practices for Effecting the Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing” at http://www.huduser.org/portal/publications/affhsg/bestpractices.html.

Additional affordable housing best practices information is at: http://www.knowledgeplex.org/showdoc.html?id=2278 and a report from Champaign-Urbana on “Homeless Housing Best Practices” is at http://www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/Research/Student/BestPracticesReportChampaign.pdf.

I raise the issue of crime and poverty research, alongside affordable housing research, because these topics need to be addressed in light of Clewer’s concerns of establishing places “where residents want to live.” Let’s face it: most people do not want to live in high-crime areas. City leaders might also consider overlapping all the maps linked above with maps of projected growth and the local public transportation system.

Now, take all this information, and the information the RHA has on existing housing developments and residents, and come up with an affordable housing plan that is consistent with the city’s plans for growth.

I know this reads more like one of my “Meet John Doe” columns, but it does involve online research!

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

Posted Feb. 4, 2015

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