Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Tracking affordable housing in Washington, D.C. via web, mobile platforms

Oct. 15, 2012, 10:15 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan


Photo Credit: Flickr user carfull...Wyoming

There's a lot of housing data in the Washington, D.C. region, from lists of owners and addresses to numbers of code violations, but it can be close to impossible for researchers and policy makers working with the data to pull it into one easy to manage, coherent whole.  The recent Knight Foundation grant to the The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region will help the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development, and NeighborhoodInfo DC,  a project of The Urban Institute, create a new web/mobile tool that will provide an easier way to access and work with infomation on affordable housing for the D.C. region.

The DC Preservation Catalog project brings data that comes from several disparate sources into one Access database  that is used by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic DevelopmentNeighborhoodInfo DC, and the DC Preservation Network--an entire coalition of city agencies and affordable housing advocates and developers--to identify and track affordable housing units. The new and improved platform for this data will give users an easier way to track and help maintain a healthy pool of affordable housing.

According to Peter Tatian,  Senior Research Associate in the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and the project's manager, there are over 1,000 properties currently listed on the DC Preservation Catalog. However, the listings are in a kludgy Access database that is hard to use. This means that the best solution that staffers who use the data as part of the  DC Preservation Catalog network have is to compile the listings into a giant PDF every month and then make printouts to bring to meetings.

"We use the housing data during meetings to make decisions on how to work with landlords, tenants, and owners to help keep their properties affordable, occupied and viable," explains Tatian. "Building an app will make it so much easier to use the data--and map it--so we can discuss and decide on preservation strategies for properties that need support in a more agile way."

Tatian and his team are basing some of their inspiration for their project on a similar project launched in New York City in 2011 by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a New York University housed research center that developed a data search tool that provides online access to New York City housing data collected by the Furman Center. In the year since its launch, the Furman Center Data Search tool has been used to create hundred of customized maps, downloadable data sets and housing trendiness.

The new housing database and app Tatian is planning will allow current members of the DC Preservation Catalog network to more easily search D.C.'s roster of affordable housing by categories such as name, owner, location, year built, financing, subsidy expiration dates, the numbers of affordable apartments, and latest housing quality inspection. Data will be able to be overlaid on a map interface that can be set to show information pulled from HUD, county databases and other sources.

Remembering Bill Friday

Oct. 12, 2012, 1:09 p.m., Posted by Alberto Ibargüen

Bill Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina and co-founder of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, died on Oct. 12. To honor his legacy, Knight Foundation is giving $25,000 to a scholarship fund in his name

Here, Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen shares his remembrances.

Bill Friday has died.  As we commend his soul to the tender mercies of his Creator, let us resolve to remember him and honor that memory by resolving to never forget the lessons of an amazing life of service and commitment to principle.

Making local history digital, searchable and accessible

Oct. 12, 2012, 11:12 a.m., Posted by Jorge A. Martinez


Photo Credit: Flickr user exostratics

Today, Knight Foundation is excited to announce $1 million in support for the Digital Public Library of America, a groundbreaking project that will make our country’s local archives digital, searchable and freely accessible.

This project is working towards the day that users will be able to search any topic – be it the Civil War or the New Deal – and immediately pull up information including pictures, videos, oral histories, manuscripts and more from collections across the country.

They're starting with seven pilot sites – with libraries and digital collaborative in Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah participating as “service” hubs.

What most excites me though is that the project is going to involve communities in creating content for their archives, whether through giving context to or tagging content, or actually bringing in items to scan and record. It’s a great way to help accelerate libraries’ evolution from information warehouses to true digital community centers and content creators, a key focus of Knight Foundation’s Library Initiative.

Organizers launched this project because they began to see a paradox emerge: In this era when people expect information at their fingertips, our local collections that are so rich in history and cultural heritage are increasingly inaccessible because of budget cuts and staff reductions.