Neighborhood Early Warning Systems
Written by Physical Environment Content Coordinator   

Some NSN neighborhood leaders have been looking into a Neighborhood Early Warning System for Tucson. This idea has been successful in other cities for a number of years in aiding neighborhoods to combat decline, especially due to property related financial difficulties. The Tucson Mayor and Council recently considered and ultimately supported the development of such an early warning system for Tucson:

On October 23, 2008, City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff reported: "The Southwest Fair Housing Council study showed that the majority of these foreclosures are occurring in a pocket of three zip codes on the south side.  The title of their report was The American Nightmare. An apt name. The resulting impacts: decreased property values, decreased tax revenues and destabilized neighborhoods. Again, this is a time for us as a community to come together and work to help our neighbors and protect our neighborhoods. The report offered five recommendations, which we accepted: create a foreclosure task force to coordinate our area response; offer foreclosure counseling to help the individuals losing their homes; adopt an anti-predatory lending ordinance, which is something we'll have to approach on the state level; create a neighborhood early warning system to anticipate problems; and create a community land trust to create affordable housing stock in perpetuity, something we've already been working on as a Council for months."

What is a Neighborhood Early Warning System?

A Neighborhood Early Warning System (NEWS) is an internet based computerized system to organize publicly available data sources to allow early warnings of negative conditions to be identified, studied, prepared and distributed.  Response plans can be perfected with use of NEWS data, to guide strategy selection, program design and evaluation.

In June 2008, The Brookings Institution published a study of use of data to help communities monitor housing decline and neighborhood health:

"In many American cities, civic groups and university institutes are developing the capacity to assemble diverse data on neighborhood conditions and encourage its application in local policymaking. In late 2004, the Urban Institute (UI) and five of these “local data intermediaries” began work on a pilot project on innovative uses of information. The Brookings Institution’s Urban Markets Initiative with support from other national and local funders sponsored this work. The intermediaries in Baltimore, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Providence, and Washington, D.C. are all institutional partners in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP). For this project, each of them developed one or more new decision support tools to enhance local capacity to guide and manage urban land markets.

This paper documents and interprets the results of this project at the end of its first year. It is primarily for local officials and nonprofit groups involved in the community development process, but it should be of interest to private developers as well. Section 1 explains the project concepts and summarizes findings and recommendations. Section 2 provides more detailed accounts of what occurred in each of the five sites. Section 3 draws conclusions and considers how best to take advantage of the potential experiences.

The accelerated development of electronic land information systems in our cities creates opportunities for important improvements in land management and community development. However, “decision support tools” are needed to assure that new data are effectively acted on. These tools transform raw data into accessible information displays designed to inform specific actions by private, nonprofit and government actors, and may range from simple web tables to more complex analytic processes. This paper reviews early experiences in developing such tools in five cities (as part of a Brookings Urban Markets Initiative pilot project) and concludes that they have great promise. The choice of tools will depend on local market conditions, but in all areas, they can help in: (1) assessing trends and need for intervention; (2) deciding on the appropriate interventions for individual properties; and (3) program monitoring and coordination. Ideas are offered as to how local leaders can create an environment conducive to capitalizing on the potential of these tools and avoiding risks that could hinder their effective use."

Data and Decisions: Parcel-Level Information Changing the Way Business Gets Done
G. Thomas Kingsley and Kathryn L.S. Pettit, METROPOLITAN POLICY PROGRAM AT BROOKINGS, June 2008 (full report - 2MB pdf)

Also see: Community Mapping

And the Center for Community Mapping

NSN is in contact with the City's Housing and Community Development Department, who has received direction from Mayor & Council/City Manager on this project.   If you have continuing interest in this topic and would like to be involved, please contact Donald Ijams, NSN Coordinator at dsijams -at-
Last Updated ( Saturday, 03 April 2010 )
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