In the course of carrying out basic functions like permitting new development or administering public programs, city and county agencies collect information about people, properties, and transactions. Community-based organizations and businesses also gather data about the people they serve.
These administrative data can be very useful for understanding local housing conditions and needs and evaluating the success of housing programs and policies. They add nuance, specificity, and timeliness to estimates drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey or other national housing datasets (Local Housing Solutions’ Housing Needs Assessment Tool relies on nationally available data to help localities understand their housing needs).
But because local administrative data are gathered for programmatic purposes, such as tax collection, permitting, and code enforcement, policymakers, practitioners, or researchers must do some work to access and use them for research and analysis. Further, to answer some housing policy questions, local officials may need to will need to undertake new data collection efforts, such as a community property inventory or resident survey.
Using concrete examples, this brief explores the uses, benefits, and challenges of using local administrative housing data. It also outlines strategies for accessing, harnessing, and collecting local data as well as building local data capacity.