Supporting Baltimore Neighborhoods with Actionable Local Data
Baltimore lost 5.7 percent of their population between 2010 and 2020, resulting in the city’s lowest population in a century. The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance–Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI) sought to start community conversations about how to reverse this trend. To understand the patterns of decline, they analyzed their in-house data and 2020 census data to understand Baltimore’s population decline at the neighborhood level. In 2022, BNIA-JFI summarized their main findings in the Baltimore Community Change 2010–2020 project, including six “Issue Briefs” accompanied by open and accessible data. Their six main findings were as follows:
- The pattern of population change is stubbornly consistent.
- Housing diversity matters.
- Vacancy is a challenge that requires dedicated investments.
- Long commutes shape communities.
- Connectedness is directly related to growth.
- Quality of life improved along multiple measures.
BNIA-JFI offered in-person and virtual events to explore the findings of the community change project. BNIA-JFI’s expertise and insightful commentary attracted a sizable number of attendees, who offered diverse perspectives about solutions and priorities for their communities. BNIA-JFI recognized the agency and expertise of residents, particularly of communities of color, and compiled the community’s solutions and the City of Baltimore’s strategies into an online solution database with the goal of enabling activists and changemakers to understand community solutions alongside city plans.
The Community Development Network of Maryland recognized the Baltimore Community Change 2021–2020 project with their annual “game changer” award, noting how valuable the data was to the work of the network’s members and how BNIA-JFI’s approach and accessible resources engaged people who might be less comfortable with data. Residents understand the issues facing their neighborhoods, but data analysis helps them tell powerful stories and strengthen their arguments. For example, a resident saw trash and illegal dumping as a significant issue in their community and used neighborhood data on 311 reports from the community change project to apply to a community small-grants program that supports neighborhood action. Other local organizations use BNIA-JFI’s community change data as well. For example, Fight Flight Bmore used BNIA-JFI’s neighborhood data to advocate for inclusionary zoning and a Baltimore land bank.
The data also provide a platform for future research, collaboration, and advocacy. The Maryland Center on Economic Policy partnered with BNIA-JFI to research small area fair market rent in Baltimore’s neighborhoods and produce the Small Area Fair Market Rents Data Tool, using data from the community change project. The community change analysis helps neighborhoods with different histories see that they are facing similar issues, such as long commute times and lack of broadband access. These data could help spur more neighborhoods working together to implement solutions across Baltimore.
This story was written by Elizabeth Burton at the Urban Institute, with the support of Cheryl Knott at the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance; Jennifer Mange, the strategic planning coordinator at Enoch Pratt Free Library; and Claudia Wilson Randall, the executive director at the Community Development Network of Maryland. NNIP is a learning network, coordinated by the Urban Institute, that connects independent partner organizations in more than 30 cities. Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance is the NNIP partner in Baltimore, Maryland.
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