Connecting state and local government leaders
The National Association of Counties’ Housing Solutions Matchmaker captures and displays housing market information to help local officials to make data-driven decisions.
County officials can assess their community’s housing market conditions using a recently launched Housing Solutions Matchmaker tool developed by the National Association of Counties (NACo), Brookings Metro and the Aspen Institute.
The matchmaker is a one-stop shop for housing affordability information that enables county officials to identify and address housing issues, Brian Namey, chief public affairs officer of NACo, said in an interview. The interactive map of the U.S. presents aggregated American Community Survey data pulled from the census website and provides profiles on each county, categorizing housing prices and population.
The map makes it easier to have conversations with other county officials and key decision makers on policy solutions for the affordable housing crisis, said Wisconsin’s Waukesha County Supervisor Larry Nelson, who is also vice chair of the NACo Community, Economic and Workforce Development Steering Committee, which advocates for community development and housing affordability.
Officials can also use the data to support federal funding requests or communicate current housing issues to residents, Namey said.
NACo staff manage the tool, maintain back-end operations and will update the program as new ACS information is made available, Shrawder said. The tool currently reflects 2019 figures.
Besides population and housing data, the tool considers metrics such as median incomes, median home values, rent prices, vacancy rates and cost-burdened renter statistics in building its profiles. Each profile also compares a county to similar metro areas within the country. When the code creates a county profile, Shrawder said, it inserts a housing policy solution that corresponds to the data. If housing data changes, so may the proposed solutions.
“In recent years, data analytics has become … a really important tool for both local and state governments,” Nelson said. “[The housing solutions matchmaker] gives county officials very specific data about their county in their region because there is no cookie cutter, one size fits all solution to address the affordable housing crisis.”
For Waukesha County, the tool highlighted the need to provide land or financial support for the acquisition of affordable housing to address current and future issues, Nelson said. It recently worked with the local Habitat for Humanity to develop a 20-home subdivision over three years beginning in 2023. The subdivision will occupy a city block that previously housed an Aeroshade factory that was demolished in 2017.
While the profiles do not propose specific solutions, the matchmaker does provide links to information officials can use as a starting point. For example, links may lead to reports or policy guides from sources such as Local Housing Solutions or Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Future plans for the matchmaker include expanding resources to include micropolitan and rural areas, as the current data primarily reflects metro populations. NACo is also encouraging county officials to provide feedback so the organization can continue making improvements to the tool.
“Housing is one of those factors that gives people more economic mobility,” Nelson said. “Certainly people that are able to afford a house – that gives them stability and leads to better neighborhoods, but even equally important, is to have affordable rent so that people can make ends meet and be able to have a higher quality of life.”