Second annual Charlotte Data Day draws crowds

  • By 2050, the United States is headed for a 120.1 percent increase in its over-65 population.
  • In North Carolina, 19 percent of households are severely cost burdened, meaning they spend more than half their income on housing.
  • Despite the “boomerang generation” stereotype, only 13 percent of millennials are still living with their parents.
  • Charlotte has 15,000 fewer affordable housing units than it needs.

These are just a few of the facts an audience of 178 housing experts, government analysts, nonprofit leaders and others learned Tuesday at the second annual Charlotte Data Day. The day-long event, hosted by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte Branch in partnership with the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, included presentations and workshops focused on local, state and national housing data.     

Why housing? Because where we live is at the root of quality of life and economic opportunity, said Federal Reserve Charlotte regional executive Matt Martin.

“Housing is connected to educational outcomes, social networks, health outcomes and of course income and access to jobs,” said Martin in his presentation. “There’s an economic growth and business case to be made, too.”  (Audio here)

Presenters such as the Federal Reserve’s Rick Kaglic (audio here), National Housing Conference Executive Director Chris Estes and North Carolina Housing Coalition Executive Director Satana Deberry focused their presentations on state- and local-level data about affordable housing and the foreclosure crisis.

“You can look at national data and it can tell you nothing about your local community if you’re not careful,” Estes said.

Other presentations included UNC Charlotte assistant professor of social work Lori Thomas, who discussed Mecklenburg County’s point-in-time study and other data-driven projects focused on homelessness. One project, Moore Place transitional housing, saved $1.8 million in hospital bills because of reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations. UNC Charlotte economist Stephen Billings presented research on the Lynx Blue Line light rail and property values. Among his findings - single family homes near transit stations increased in value by 5 percent while condominiums saw a 15 percent increase.     

But the day wasn’t all presentations. In the afternoon, attendees got a chance to learn about new data sources and tools.  Josh Geyer from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development demonstrated HUD’s new Location Affordability Portal, a data mapping system that takes transportation costs into account when determining housing affordability.

“For some low-income rural households, transportation costs exceed housing costs,” Geyer said.  “If you’re thinking about affordability and not transportation, you’re not getting the whole picture.”

Economist and data visualization specialist Jonathan Schwabish led a popular session on creating charts and graphs using basic and inexpensive software like Microsoft Excel. His workshop included tips on color choice, de-cluttering graphs by combining chart types and getting beyond default settings in software programs.

“Every default graphic is going to be terrible,” Schwabish said.

Jessica Russell, a research analyst with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, introduced the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and its online data tools.