Data to Drive Development

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The message was simple and the strategy is clear: invest smarter and invest with an understanding of real-time housing market conditions. HUD consultants addressed a packed room of community leaders and elected officials this week, unveiling a “Market Value Analysis” tool that will soon go live on the city’s website. That tool provides a snapshot of current housing data displayed on a map, broken down by census block groups, comparing block groups against each other around several data points including sale prices, foreclosure rates, owner vs. rental occupancy rates, vacancy rates and so forth. Presenters reminded on several occasions that the tools is comparative, not prescriptive. See the full powerpoint here.

”A market value analysis (MVA) is a tool designed to assist

the private market (for- and not-for-profit) and

government officials to identify and comprehend the

various elements of local real estate markets. It is based

fundamentally on local administrative data sources.”

HUD recognized two years ago that the City of St. Louis needed help managing Federal funds. Displeased with the return on investments in low-income neighborhoods, local HUD officials made a case in Washington for funds to build a tool that would assist CDA and non-profit community organization better assess community needs and better understand which investments will improve quality of life in St. Louis.

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Each year the Community Development Agency (CDA) receives and oversees more than $20 million under the Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”), HOME Investment Partnership (“HOME”), Emergency Solutions Grant (“ESG”) and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (“HOPWA”) Federal entitlement programs. St. Louis, and similar cities, qualifies based on rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, persons with aids and other indications that ‘entitle’ the city to relief dollars. In years past, members of the board of aldermen had great influence on which community-based organizations received these funds; organizations were charged with carrying out programs established by the Feds and monitored by CDA. A common practice of transferring funds in the middle of the program year from one project to another allowed aldermen flexibility in making ward investments, but made program success and compliance with Federal guidelines difficult to track.


In the last funding round, CDA scored applications for funding based on specific criteria, including a program’s alignment with the City’s 5-Year Consolidated Plan, and made recommendations for funding to the Housing Urban Design and Zoning (HUDZ) Committee of the Board of Aldermen. Alderman Wessels, HUDZ Chairman, introduced Board Bill 198 in October with CDA funding recommendations attached. The HUDZ committee made significant changes to the bill, shifting funds programs that, while not topping the CDA scorecard, have broad community support in neighborhoods. The final bill passed the full Board of Aldermen and, for the first time ever, prohibited mid-year fund transfers. See what got funded in FY2013-2014.


It’s in this new environment of strict oversight and standardized processes that we inject market realities and data into the decision-making process with the Market Value Analysis Tool. Our hope is the MVA will create a streamlined process for investment, but be flexible enough to understand the social and cultural conditions behind the data. We agree that building 12 new homes on a block where, at the same time, 20 homes went vacant isn’t the best way to spend housing dollars. Federal investments should be met, in some way, by the private market. But we also know that block grant dollars must be invested in communities that need them most, on programs that have proven track records, overseen by organizations that both CDA and the community trust.

“The MVA tool is a snapshot in time designed to support

data-based decision-making and precisely crafted

intervention strategies.”

Income disparities in the St. Louis region continue to hold us back economically. Poverty rates in the City of St. Louis are startling. Neighborhoods are in crisis. With these realities, along with the realities of the market in mind, we must begin a broad community conversation focused on identifying neighborhood needs, bringing partners from the non-profit and philanthropic worlds to the table and, together, lift quality of life in a meaningful, measurable way. We can do this, we can lead the nation in this effort and we must.

For More Information on MVA, contact: 

Ira Goldstein – The Reinvestment Fund – or 215-574-5831.

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