Online Mapping Tool Opens Doors to Data

The Philadelphia-based Reinvestment Fund has launched its online mapping tool called PolicyMap, according to the non-profit community development fund. This online mapping site, now open to the public, makes available a wide array of data sets, many of which were formerly available only to researchers. PolicyMap was originally created for the investors, state and local governments, clients and foundations, to provide online and updated information about their investments and loans. The tool will be helpful to city planners, real estate brokers, builders, commercial property owners and investors. It contains more than 4,000 indicators and it continues to be updated. Maggie McCullough (pictured), director of PolicyMap, a division of The Reinvestment Fund, told CPN, “The Reinvestment Fund makes loans not only for affordable housing but also for charter schools, and businesses like grocery stores that want to set up in urban communities in the 5-state Mid-Atlantic area. About ten years ago we set up a public policy office to better understand our investments and watch the impacts we were making, and this this led us to the creation of the mapping tool.” McCullough also noted that, “any data that we get for free, we put up for free. Some data sets we had to buy and we’re not allowed to give them away for free. But right now 80 percent of the data is free. The other 20 percent mainly includes home sales, demographics, current estimates and future projections of things like racial and income compositional data.” Sources for the data include the United States Census Bureau, Claritas, the FBI, and the IRS, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, Boxwood Means–a value-added reseller of home sale data–and TRF. On the site both simple and multi-layered maps can be developed to see data overlaid on top of a map. Subscribers may include see more proprietary data, with costs ranging from $200 per month to $5,000 a year, depending on the services and subsets of data made available. PolicyMap has contracted with the Los Angeles-based IT company Placebase. Placebase has a proprietary mapping application called Pushpin. Pushpin technology makes it possible for PolicyMap to provide clear and thematic maps. PolicyMap has recently purchased school performance data and this should be available soon. Home sales information will be updated quarterly. According to McCullough, “We are also looking into adding more sources for more data. For example, we’re talking to CDC Health for indicators about health statistics that we can share through Policy Map, to the public.”