From Housing to Food Insecurity, Albany Uses Data to Tackle Local Challenges

April 5, 2021

Named in the inaugural class of four communities to receive a Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (Georgia Smart) grant from Georgia Tech in 2018, Albany’s Housing Data Analytics and Visualization Initiative has evolved into something more.

The project that was founded in 2018 looked to help city officials develop and evaluate an automated housing registry. The goal was to manage the city’s housing inventory more effectively by bridging the gap between currently available data and the need for a more robust, flexible and accurate database. At the time the grant was awarded, the city’s housing inventory of over 33,000 units was inefficiently managed. Handwritten inspection sheets were being translated into several spreadsheets, a process that consumed significant resources and allowed a high likelihood for errors.

The outcome of the initial grant-funded project resulted in several improvements, including improved efficiency of data access, the retirement of the spreadsheets and a move to online dashboards with analytics and information, enhanced transparency and connections with the community, and improved decision-making based on data.

Albany’s housing data initiative led to the development of additional data-centric initiatives, which was the city’s intent from the very beginning. The city’s Food Security Initiative, which kicked off in 2020, is focused on improving the quality of life and health in Albany by addressing food insecurity, food access and health outcomes. This multi-organizational collaborative has been designed not just to identify food deserts within Albany, but also to create a public-private partnership to eradicate food insecurity altogether.

The link between the housing initiative and the food security initiative is based on the robust use of data. Albany has established a GeoHub for its data-based initiatives. For the food security initiative, users can find data and maps on food access in the city, health factors and outcomes, access to community gardens and food insecurity. In addition to the Food Security Initiative, the data hub also provides Albany residents access to the housing initiative data, crime data analytics and Dougherty County property tax information.

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.

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