(Photo by Chris Kendig)
The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI) has issued 13 editions of its Vital Signs report. It’s a neighborhood-centered approach to tracking quality-of-life indicators, and a wealth of statistics.
With all of the coverage on the issues behind the unrest that followed Freddie Gray’s funeral, Vital Signs was quoted often. Before releasing this year’s Vital Signs in a couple of months, the staff at BNIA-JFI dug into the data they already have, and found some takeaways.
They boiled it down to three goals for city leaders and advocates to focus on as they look to stave off population losses in a new report called “What Happened in Baltimore and What Can We Do? A Neighborhood’s Perspective,” which was published last week. The idea is to connect all of the dots that are plotted on many maps of the city that the University of Baltimore-based organization produces.
“We will be advocating that any program or policy assess the neighborhood impact on any one of the three indicators/goals,” Seema Iyer, Associate Director of the Jacob France Institute, said in an email.
Briefly, here are the three goals:
1. Increasing housing diversity
Having more different types of housing (i.e., house vs. apartment, rent vs. own) in an area eliminates deep disparities between rich and poor, and is directly tied to educational outcomes, the report states. BNIA-JFI advocates upping the diversity in every neighborhood, not just the most stressed communities.
2. Cutting vacant property to 4 percent or lower
Iyer used this goal to illustrate how this report differs from BNIA-JFI’s other work.
“This report takes conclusions from Vital Signs and takes the next step by explicitly stating how many properties would need to be addressed in high vacancy neighborhoods to bring them down below 4%, which seems to be the point at which a neighborhood’s population won’t grow,” Iyer wrote.
3. Reduce commute times to under 45 minutes
Iyer touched on the importance of commute times as a reflection of access to jobs at a SocEnt Breakfast in May. The basic idea: It’s harder to keep a job if it’s harder to get to work. And when it comes time to a change, it’s either the job or the neighborhood. Workforce development initiatives and other programs must take commute time into account, the report states.
How did they reach these conclusions? There’s a lot more in the full report.