Technology Innovator of the Week: The Urban Institute

It's Monday! Which means it's time once again to announce our Technology Innovator of the Week! Today, we're honored to be able to turn the spotlight on The Urban Institute.

The Urban Institute builds knowledge about the nation’s social and fiscal challenges, practicing open-minded, evidence-based research to diagnose problems and figure out which policies and programs work best, for whom, and how.

Peter Tatian, from the Urban Institute, took a few minutes to answer our questions about The DC Preservation Catalog. His answers are below. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments below!

The DC Preservation Catalog is a database of nearly 35,000 federally- and locally-subsidized rental properties in Washington, DC, used among the members of the Network to exchange information about properties at risk, set priorities, and develop strategies for housing preservation. The Catalog provides accurate data, such as numbers of subsidized apartments and affordability levels, results of quality inspections, and information about affordable housing subsidies present in the project. We have obtained funding for an enhanced Catalog that will include more local data, such as foreclosure notices, and allow Network members to post online comments on properties.

HOW HAS IMPLEMENTING YOUR INNOVATION CHANGED THE WAY THE URBAN INSTITUTE DOES BUSINESS? 

Previously, information on affordable rental housing was scattered among different databases, making it difficult to coordinate preservation strategies. The Catalog allows government, nonprofit, and private sector players to identify properties most at risk of losing affordability and develop approaches to preserving affordability for low-income tenants. This sharing of information has helped the Network chalk up some important victories in preserving affordable housing in DC.

IF YOU HAD AN UNLIMITED BUDGET FOR TECHNOLOGY, WHAT CHANGE WOULD YOU IMPLEMENT? 

The Catalog data are currently accessible only through a static PDF report that is updated monthly. We’d like to provide technology to map the data online and provide real-time updates of information from administrative data sources and insights from Preservation Network members and tenants. This would include not only text comments, but also audio and visual information. Ideally, the Catalog data would be easily accessible and updatable through mobile devices, to improve the ability to use the information on the ground.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FUTURE PLANS FOR YOUR INNOVATION? 

With funding we have received through the Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge and from other supporters, we hope to begin implementing the online version of the Catalog over the next few months.

If you're interested in learning more about The Catalog, please feel free to ask in the comments below!

If you're interested in having your organization featured like The Urban Institute, please send an email to smorgan@501ctech.org.

Topics: tech impact, nonprofit technology, Testimonial, Evolving Office

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