day one project

Develop a Housing Production Dashboard to Aid Policymaking and Research

02.23.24 | 3 min read | Text by Brian J. Connolly & Heidi Aggeler & Avilia Bueno

Anyone who wants to understand housing production and its barriers faces crucial information gaps. Legislators, planners, housing developers, researchers, advocates, and citizens alike struggle to track proposed and actual housing production in a community or across communities, understand why proposed units go unconstructed, or determine affordability levels of proposed or approved units. Absent this information, the efficacy of interventions, including zoning reforms, is purely speculative, potentially resulting in inefficient, ineffective, or inequitable policies.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Commerce, and Department of Transportation should jointly develop and manage a data resource—a Housing Production Dashboard—to track housing production within and across states and local jurisdictions to inform policy and research and to ensure that public investments in affordable housing production and preservation are made with maximum efficiency.

There is broad consensus that addressing chronic housing undersupply requires governments to ease constraints on housing production through zoning, finance, and other reforms. Our highly localized and decentralized land-use permitting system, the uniqueness of each local code and processes, and the idiosyncratic nature of local permitting administration obscures this information. Even as states and cities have adopted reforms such as allowing multiple units on single-family residential lots, there is little indication that single-family zoning caused unaffordable housing or that amending it will effectively address the problem.

No federal or state rule requires, and few agencies have developed, methods to track housing production despite this information’s relevance to fair and affordable housing, economic development, and transportation agencies. The few existing resources include the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’s Housing Indicators website and California’s Statewide Housing Plan Dashboard.


To make housing production data generally available to government agencies, policymakers, researchers, and citizens, we recommend the following: 

This data resource will facilitate affordable housing production by (1) enabling policymakers and researchers to compare jurisdictions’ regulations and processes, and the reasons housing units go unconstructed, to identify causes of underproduction; (2) substantiating fact-based development decisions by local and state policymakers and reducing the power of anti-development-motivated reasoning; (3) empowering advocates and citizens to apply political and legal pressure on officials that fail to address housing needs or concentrate affordable housing in low-opportunity areas; and (4) informing real estate industry and major employer investment and location decisions prioritizing the most advantageous communities in which to locate and build more housing.

The federal government has a precedent and expertise in providing this type of data through HUD’s CHAS and AFFH Data and Mapping tool, as well as numerous Census products. Federal agencies are best-positioned to incentivize data delivery for the Dashboard and ensure the provision of unbiased factual information. Academic institutions and advocacy nonprofits could partner in the product’s development through a federal request for proposals. In summary, the Dashboard presents an opportunity for more informed policymaking, better economic development, and a powerful public information resource, with particular benefit for small and budget-constrained localities, advocates, and builders without the resources to collect and analyze the data on their own.

This idea of merit originated from our Housing Ideas Challenge, in partnership with Learning Collider, National Zoning Atlas, and Cornell’s Legal Constructs Lab. Find additional ideas to address the housing shortage here.