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UrbanFootprint Brings Better Eviction Data to Governments

With millions at risk of eviction, the company’s tools can help public agencies better target people in need of government assistance. The key? Neighborhood-level data that is updated quickly.

An eviction notice attached to a board nailed across a front door.
As millions of U.S. renters face the risk of eviction in these late stages of the pandemic, a California-based company called UrbanFootprint wants to use its technology to help governments craft better assistance programs.

The general idea is to use granular data from a variety of sources and real-time updates to help local and state government officials better target potential recipients of emergency assistance programs. A recent data analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that some 14 percent of U.S. renters — more than 10 million people — face evictions in the coming months after pandemic protections expire.

That provides an opening for a company such as UrbanFootprint to put its technology to work for government agencies tasked with dealing with the problem.

The company, which describes itself as an urban intelligence platform, launched in 2015 to provide up-to-date, neighborhood-level data to urban planners and other professionals. In the past year and a half, said CEO Joe DiStefano, the company started offering its services to government agencies that oversee public assistance programs, including emergency food aid.

“We’ve always been in the urban and public space,” he said. “When COVID came along we (brought) our data and our expertise in these spaces because it was needed. I wouldn’t call it a pivot but an acceleration. We always knew we could help in a variety of sectors.”

The company pulls data from a variety of sources — Census Bureau surveys and jobless claims are two examples — to come up with detailed descriptions of neighborhoods, blocks and other small geographic areas to help officials determine food security and eviction risks. Agencies can buy subscriptions to UrbanFootprint data streams or buy specific data packages.

The company’s eviction risk index provides agencies with data that enables officials to better reach people who might qualify for application-based assistance programs. Boosting awareness of aid programs among potential participants remains a longstanding challenge for local and state governments, especially as the pandemic increased the need for such help.

“They can use that data to hyper-target campaigns,” DiStefano said, adding that UrbanFootprint technology can update data every two weeks, aiding with those marketing and outreach efforts.

That’s not all the company can do when it comes to helping governments manage eviction risks. In California, UrbanFootprint’s data analysis tools have helped officials identify areas for housing that would be relatively affordable.

FOOD PROGRAM ASSISTANCE


UrbanFootprint has also recently worked to expand access to emergency food assistance.

In Louisiana, the company has teamed with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services to better identify neighborhoods most at risk for residents going hungry. That, in turn, bolsters state outreach efforts to stave off potential malnutrition among residents.

According to March data from UrbanFootprint and its partners, some 19.5 million people in the U.S. are food insecure, which is up 45 percent from the same period a year ago. The data comes from the company’s Food Security Insights tool, a product used by Feeding Louisiana and other organizations and agencies focused on helping the hungry buy groceries.

“We’ve always known how many meals our food bank network partners provide and how many people are enrolled in programs like SNAP,” said Korey Patty, executive director of Feeding Louisiana, in a statement from earlier this year. “What we’ve been missing, however, is the denominator: a clear understanding of how many households are food insecure and where these households are located. Food Security Insights fills this gap, allowing us to understand the true scope and scale of the problem and the progress we’re making.”

An area of work potentially even larger for UrbanFootprint is the specter of climate change, anticipated to have harder impacts on lower-income communities than wealthier ones. DiStefano said the company’s data tools can help governments better prioritize where to upgrade and deploy new utility and other infrastructure.

Additionally, data can also provide an ever more precise picture of how heat waves — such as the ones punishing much of the western U.S. this year — affect certain neighborhoods more than others. That knowledge can then influence government response plans.

“Burnout effects are felt differently in Beverly Hills than in South Central Los Angeles,” he said.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in New Orleans.
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