Amy Smith of Healthy Homeworks, a Maine-based non-profit, expressed a need for assistance in creating her novel Property Health Report (PHR) database. Her idea revolves around the democratization of data for the rental housing stock in Lewiston, ME, a housing stock which is identified as aging. This property health data will be democratized in the form of an easy-to-understand, user-friendly, online interface that is available to the public. The prototype PHR will put property health data, located in a master database, into an algorithm to assign an objective grade to each property in the prototype. The PHR project overall is extremely detailed and needs a solid, organized framework from which it can grow. Our group worked in conjunction with Amy Smith to develop her prototype and primarily focused on the first steps of the project. These firsts steps revolved around laying the groundwork for the PHR, so data collection from identified data holders could be efficiently obtained. Our method to establish this groundwork revolves around three main steps. The first one involves establishing the scope of the database and collecting unique identifiers for the properties included. The second step focuses on what data regarding property health needs to be collected and categorizing that data into three easy-to-understand grades. The final third step involves identifying individuals who oversee the data used for grading. Using our methods, we were able to populate the database with unique identifiers for properties in downtown Lewiston. The process of collecting ownership data, data which 2 identifies the name of the individuals who can be contacted regarding issues with the property, highlighted the need for a democratized user interface. Ownership information was scattered across multiple online databases and the ownership information on each of these databases was not consistent. We found that the Lewiston municipal water bills were the most accurate and consistently updated source for ownership information. The results for the other two steps were products of Amy Smith’s learned knowledge of the Lewiston rental housing stock. We were fortunate enough to have someone to consult with regarding what property data should be used for the grading system. We also consulted with Amy Smith regarding where the issue datasets could be located. The collection of unique identifiers, identification of issue datasets to be used for grading, and the identification of the individuals who hold this data all allow for the efficient collection of data to populate the master spreadsheet. In the future, if the steps taken to create this novel prototype prove effective, similar models of the PHR prototype can replicated elsewhere using a similar methodology that is adjusted to that city’s rental housing ecosystem.
Bourland, Ella; Russo, Dre; and Platt, Gordon, "Healthy Homeworks' Property Health Report" (2018). Community Engaged Research Reports. 58.