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Prototype of HUD Community Planning Application Nears Completion

The first prototype of an Internet application that Esri Professional Services is developing for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is nearing Esri Services logocompletion. HUD is developing the application to provide users with easy access to GIS tools and HUD data to support housing and community development programs at the state, county, city, and neighborhood levels.

The Internet application prototype will allow the public and federal, state, and local agencies to formulate complex queries of HUD housing and community development data. Query results will be returned in thematic map format with an associated table. Additional functionality and data resources will be added in the future, building to a full production release of the application later in 2001. The enterprise geographic information system (EGIS), HUD's first true cross-program information portal, will change the way HUD uses its information and will have an immediate, measurable impact on the quality of service HUD delivers to its customers. EGIS will provide HUD staff, Congress, Business partners, local communities, and the general public with access to HUD data across multiple program areas as well as facilitate HUD's enterprise systems integration, improved financial reporting, geospatial processing (maps), and public access to HUD data.

Background

The application is being developed under a five-year, $10.2 million contract HUD awarded to Esri in June 2000 to make standard GIS functionality, especially map visualization functionality, available to HUD, its clients, and the public for decision support. The contract calls for Esri to develop, install, and maintain an agencywide, standard EGIS platform (ArcNews, Fall 2000). The EGIS program seeks to improve the ability of communities to affect housing and make community development decisions and to broaden access to data and mapping tools to enhance community input. GIS was appropriate for the program because it makes this data visible and understandable.

Community Mapping web page
Zooming in close enough displays individual HUD housing projects.

Progress to Date

In keeping with the broad objectives of the EGIS program, other applications are being developed as well as the Internet application. David Nystrom, senior information technology advisor at HUD, said, "Esri is working with HUD to integrate the geospatial capabilities of EGIS into many ongoing data access and information delivery development activities."

One such application is a place-based planning tool that Esri developed for HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R). It allows users to merge and manipulate HUD, Census, and other federal data sets. Another is HUD E-MAPS, a free Internet service (www.hud.gov/emaps) that is up and running. The HUD E-MAPS site allows the public and state, local, and federal agencies to use HUD and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data together, allowing, for example, communities to assess the proximity of environmental risk factors, such as hazardous waste storage sites, to existing and potential housing development sites.

According to Jon Harrison, the Esri project manager, extensions to the standard EGIS functionality provided by the Internet application currently being prototyped are also being developed. The extensions will provide specialized tools for HUD's program offices, and they will permit HUD data from multiple program offices to be used together, in many cases for the first time. The effect will be to make the complex relationships between community development and housing programs easy to visualize as part of better decision making.

Future Directions

As illustrated by HUD E-MAPS, the EGIS presents an opportunity to bring together HUD housing and community development information and data from other relevant federal agencies into one place that is accessible to the public over the Internet. Among future enhancements to the EGIS is serving of multiple federal GIS data sets pertinent to housing and community planning from a single place-based planning portal. As the EGIS development advances, it will also serve or provide access to many more data sets produced at other levels of government that can be served and used from within any EGIS application. The EGIS data and map service extensions are in the proof-of-concept stage. Harrison emphasizes the importance of this and the other EGIS capabilities, saying, "When completed, EGIS will permit true place-based planning—it will allow planning organizations to drill down through the data produced by various government agencies and integrate HUD and other federal data with imagery, parcel, and other locally produced data." Using metadata, HUD's clients will be able to search for data, compare their data use requirements with the data producers' metadata descriptions, and decide whether to pursue using the data. Federal agencies like HUD will benefit from local government users returning corrected data sets based on up-to-date and spatially accurate, large-scale local geographic data sources.

Implementation

Since HUD's mission is to support community development and housing initiatives at the local government level, and of course local governments are distributed across the entire United States, the Internet is ideal for delivering GIS functionality. To implement the applications, Esri Professional Services is using its ArcIMS and ArcSDE software. ArcIMS software is capable of establishing a common platform for the exchange of Web-enabled GIS data and services, and ArcSDE software is client/server software for storing, managing, and quickly retrieving spatial data from a database management system.

For more information, contact Jon Harrison, Esri project manager (tel.: 909-793-2853, ext. 1-1581; e-mail: jharrison@esri.com).


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