U developing neighborhood information system

Robyn Repya

City housing information is now available to neighborhood associations that take the time to seek it out. But with information scattered among departments, the process can be daunting.

A new comprehensive database called the Minneapolis Neighborhood Information System, being developed at the University’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, is expected to make analyzing housing information and planning for neighborhood projects easier.

The U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded the project a $500,000 grant earlier this month.

The system is a joint venture with CURA, the city of Minneapolis and the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Kris Nelson, CURA program director, said the database will collect information on housing value, housing conditions, ownership records and code violations. That information will then be used to plan projects and allocate money, he said.

Nelson said one reason he is excited about the database is that it will cut in half the time it
previously took to gather and analyze that data.

“It’s the most fully integrated model in the country,” he said.

In addition to helping neighborhood associations, the system will also aid those looking to buy property in the neighborhood, he said.

“(Potential buyers) would be more informed about the housing in the neighborhood,” Nelson said.

Clyde Ensslin, director of communications for NTIA, said experts selected grant recipients through a process of peer review.

He said the 74 organizations that received the Technology Opportunity Program grants were judged on their likelihood of success at innovative technology use.

Ensslin also said many TOP recipients were chosen because their programs could be applied to more than one city.

Sarah Moffitt, Minneapolis city planner and grant writer for the MNIS project, said a specialized component of the system probably helped to get the grant, for which the groups had applied twice previously.

That component is a database tool kit that will be used for neighborhood associations to individualize the system for their area.

NRP director Bob Miller said MNIS will keep track of non-visible or physical problems affecting the neighborhood, its housing and its property.

Information such as which houses typically don’t pay taxes, water or sewage bills will help to prevent problems, Miller said. It will alert neighborhood associations that can offer assistance.

The system will “keep properties from getting to the point of deterioration, where they’re no longer salvageable,” he said.

Miller said he hopes once the system is established in a few neighborhood associations, others will want to utilize it.

 

Robyn Repya covers East Bank neighborhoods and welcomes comments at [email protected]