Open Government Initiative to surface a useful data set


While we were kicking around data sets wed like to see from the new Open Government Initiative, our colleague Daniel Schuman found an actual list, buried in appendix two of the Open Government Progress Report to the American People that the Obama administration released today.

I couldnt help but notice this data set:

11. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Tracking Quality of Federally-Assisted Rental HousingThe Real Estate Assessment Center conducts physical property inspections of public housing. HUD is releasing a full historical view of point-in-time property scores. Making these details available will enable researchers, advocacy groups, and the general public to 1) better understand the physical condition of the HUD-assisted housing stock, 2) hold providers accountable for housing quality, and 3) plan for future affordable housing needs.

Some months back, we started cooking up a project were calling the OFFGRID (Opaque and Flawed Federal Government Records, Information and Data) Catalog. We wanted to go fishing for agency data thats hard to find, difficult to obtain, hard to useand HUDs inspection records were one of the first I wanted us to go after. Imagine identifying the worst public housing in America by location and owner, mapping it, running the names of the owners through campaign finance databases and lobbying records, mapping public housing stock against toxic release inventory datait just seemed like there was a lot one could do with that information, if only one could get it from HUD.

From the perspective of a journalist, thats whats most impressive about the announcement today. Not having to devote the first six months of a project to fighting tooth and nail for access to data, but actually having itgoing to a Web site and downloading itwould be a huge boon for reporters. Not a panaceafederal data takes time to work with and understand, can often be inaccurate, needs debuggingbut the less time spent trying to acquire it means more time can be devoted to analyzing it.