Partnerships + Data: The Keys to Creating Change and Opportunity

Partnerships are an important element of APA's mission and strategy. One of APA's partners, Enterprise, describes its work in the arena of housing affordability and accessibility.

How can planners create more opportunities and make lasting changes in communities? There's not one easy answer — but one thing is sure: Nobody can do it alone. Real change begins to take shape when partners can connect with the most powerful, data-rich resources available.

Enterprise's Role in Affordable Housing

A nonprofit association with community partners all over the U.S., Enterprise brings together knowledge, partners, policy leadership, and investment to multiply the impact of local affordable housing development. Its partners are people and organizations who have deep knowledge and expertise in their local communities and their fields.

In 2016, Enterprise was thrilled to be one of several partners, together with the American Planning Association, in a collaborative effort to address affordable housing and economic revitalization in America's legacy cities. Through HUD's Prosperity Playbook Initiative, Enterprise teamed with APA, the National League of Cities, the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, and local mayors and other stakeholders. This initiative connects city officials to existing improvement efforts focusing on economic mobility and expanding housing affordability across the country.

This type of collaboration will always be a cornerstone of Enterprise's work, but evolving and innovative tools are also critical in helping its partners and initiatives thrive.

Opportunity360: Enhancing Community Development Tools

Opportunity360 is a tool that helps communities and practitioners find the resources and data they need most. The Opportunity Measurement Report reveals 37 different data sources to create a local profile of demographics, housing cost burden, employment, and homeownership for every census tract in the country. These reports provide an important community data snapshot and a jumping-off point for assessing local assets and challenges and developing solutions.

Opportunity360 can be utilized in many different environments, including rural communities, where practitioners currently face unique challenges in accessing and using data for community development. Frontline staff and non-technical practitioners may come from organizations with limited capacity and have fewer of the rich, open-source resources or data portals that are available in large cities. Data sources for rural areas may also be unreliable, or difficult to locate, compile and validate.

Due to these challenges, there is significant value in national-coverage data tools that help rural practitioners "fill in the gaps."

For example, in 2018, Enterprise worked with stakeholders of a land bank in rural upstate New York to use Opportunity360 data to better understand their local context and work more closely together to serve their county's families. The newly accessible information better equipped them to make future decisions about vacant properties and community assets.

There is still much to be improved upon to make sure smaller, rural communities have equitable access to reliable data resources that reflect their unique characteristics. Indicators that matter in dense urban areas may be less useful for those living in rural areas, such as measures of walkability or access to public transit. National, public data sources can also offer insights, but they cannot speak to all of the concerns that are relevant to sparsely populated communities.

As Enterprise steps further into 2019, it continues to research data resources for rural communities and will share what it learned. Enterprise will also continue to develop and improve our tools to help address the unique challenges experienced by its partners, to help every community become a thriving place of opportunity, for all people.

Top image: Cheryl Chow Court, an affordable Enterprise community in Seattle.

About the Author
Ann Myatt James, Ph.D., a program officer of research and analytics with Enterprise's Knowledge, Impact, and Strategy team at Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. She brings to the field of community development experience living and working on farms and in rural communities.

June 13, 2019

By Ann Myatt James