How New York City Uses Data to Manage Public Housing

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide “Analytics in Action: How Government Tackles Critical Issues With Data.” In this guide, we share firsthand accounts from government employees at all levels who are using analytics to identify critical issues and find solutions. Download the full guide here.

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the oldest and largest public housing authority in the United States. Nearly 400,000 residents live in NYCHA developments, or about one in 14 New Yorkers. The agency maintains 2,500 buildings and generates 2.6 million work orders annually.

To learn more about how NYCHA manages its public housing with data analytics, GovLoop spoke with Zodet Negron, Deputy Press Secretary; Sybille Louis, Director for Performance Tracking and Analytics; Anne-Marie Flatley, Vice President for Performance Management and Analytics.

GovLoop: What issues is your organization trying to tackle?

Zodet: We’re trying to do more with less, and that’s where I think analytics and technology come in. Our current NYCHA chair wants to make NYCHA a more efficient landlord [and] a more efficient organization, so we launched a long-term strategic plan called NextGeneration NYCHA.

GovLoop: How are you using data and analytics to address those issues?

Sybille: We work very closely with our IT department. We developed an Oracle-based performance-tracking dashboard, which allows us to track key performance indicators for the agency — anything from how many vacant apartments we have, rent collection, work order repair and how long it takes to address emergencies. We also use our mapping software to determine geographical patterns and trends.

GovLoop: Can you share a time when your organization used analytics to drive better decision-making?

Zodet: We used our analytics and our reporting to look at where were we scoring low in the [Housing and Urban Development Department] assessment. Every housing authority, including NYCHA, has to go out every two years to inspect that [housing] unit to ensure that it’s up to housing quality standards. What we were finding is that we were losing points on our HUD assessment because we weren’t getting enough of those inspections done on time.

We looked at the analytics to look at where were we seeing delays in the inspection. Were there particular inspectors that maybe were not completing their routes on time? Maybe the routes had to be adjusted? So we developed these reports to track what were the inspections, what were the number of inspections due that month, how far we were behind and how many did we have to go to catch up. It really helped focus efforts on the inspections that were due. And that was one of the things that helped us become a high performer, was to use these reports to improve the performance of inspections.

GovLoop: What did you learn and what were the outcomes?

Zodet: We started out with a pilot program when we launched NextGeneration NYCHA with about 15 [housing] developments. We’ve continued to add more developments, and we’re finding that these developments are performing at a higher level than our other developments.

Sybille: When we first began this program in 2015, we developed the dashboard for those developments. For example, one of the key [indicators] was: How fast are we addressing our simple [maintenance] repairs? We’ve seen a dramatic improvement. When the program began, they were at about 21 days, and now they’re under four days.

We’ve always had the data, but in this specific scorecard, we could really see the direction with colors [red, yellow and green]. The visual graph was really instrumental in putting the data out there [so] people can see that at a glance.

GovLoop: Can you share tips on how you got the data you needed and decided what tools/techniques to use?

Sybille: The process has to be collaborative. We work very closely with our IT department, [and], we do have data in separate instances. But we have been able to pull the data from the system and create a data warehouse where we can pull data from. The front end is the dashboard itself and creating the actual report.

GovLoop: What were the resource requirements?

Anne-Marie: We don’t have a huge team — 18 staff members in the Performance Management and Analytics Department. We’re not an IT department, but what we’ve done through the years is to send some staff through Oracle training. We definitely help out IT that way because they don’t necessarily have the staff that can spend the time figuring out the colors and the query, but they’ll set up the table, then we’ll work with IT as well as the business owner to validate the data.

GovLoop: What was key to your success with analytics?

Ann-Marie: Very close collaboration with IT and the business owners [and] really listening to them as to what information they need to manage what they have to do. I would also say investing in your staff because it’s not enough to create the report, but what does the report mean, what does it mean for the future, and what are the past trends?

GovLoop: How are you creating a culture for analytics at your agency?

Anne-Marie: It’s been something that has been developing over the years, and now it’s refining and also just having that information be more accessible so that it can trickle down faster to all NYCHA staff, including property managers and maintenance supervisors.

GovLoop: What do you hope to do with data and analytics in the near-term and long-term that you cannot do today?

Sybille: I just completed an applied data analytics course. We were introduced to new techniques that we have not done before, such as machine learning, where we can use the power of predictive analytics to help us think about the state of our buildings in the future. We can predict which buildings will have more repair needs.

Anne-Marie: We’d also love to do more with GIS.

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