A great deal of data is already available on housing conditions in your community, but the information needs to be pulled together to paint a comprehensive picture. The place to start is with the HousingForward Virginia Website, where Sourcebook and Playbook provide up to date information on needs and programs. Communities that receive federal dollars (often passed through the states) through the HOME or Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs have to submit Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategies as part of their Consolidated Plan that include extensive data on area demographics, housing needs, and the local housing supply. Other government agencies, such as the local tax assessor’s office, can be a source of useful data on areas where home values are growing or declining as well as where clusters of vacant properties are emerging. Local realtors and area lenders can share data on recent home purchases for neighborhoods in your community.
Another great resource to tap is your local community college or university. In addition to faculty members who may be available to do custom analyses of census or other data, you may be able to engage the services of students in the planning, architecture or economics departments to conduct on- foot surveys of neighborhood housing and building conditions.
With some official sources of data, there may be a considerable time lag between data collection and release, and you may find that some of the data are a few years out of date. That’s why it is important to go beyond official data sources to talk to those in the know- realtors, local lenders, and residents active in community groups among others. Their insights can be invaluable and they often can pinpoint problems long before they show up in the official data.