Down to the Wire

Time is of the essence for the NAP team. We presented the latest iteration of the web platform to the people at New American Pathways and they really liked the tool. The web development aspect of the project is wrapping up but for the next two weeks we’ll be diving deeper into the analytical side of our housing recommendation system.

Along with the layers we’ve added to the tool for visual search, we would like to include a parameter based feature so that the users at Pathways could specify their own criteria and see a dynamic map based on all data they’ve specified and a listing of complexes which most closely match their criteria. Then we can get a holistic idea of which areas and complexes are most promising for our search.

Example of ideal area coloring.

Example of ideal area coloring.

The parameter based recommendation system will use the criteria we’ve gathered already – affordability, access to public transit, retail, jobs, access to essential services, etc…. Users will define the importance – weights – of each criteria and our algorithm will then rank the complexes and show a comprehensive desirability map along with an ordered list of complexes.

We know that the visual search tool will be useful to NAP and we’re anxious to see if they’ll get as much use out of the recommendation system. Although time is limited for the deployment of our tool we would still like to get feedback from NAP so as to possibly further improve the tool after the DSSG fellowship ends.

As for the website, we’ve finished 99% of the functionality and most of the work that remains is cosmetic. Our final presentation is next week in front of the largest audience we’ve seen yet. Wish us luck!

A Pathway Forward

The first usable iteration of our housing scout was deployed yesterday and so far the reviews from our partners at New American Pathways have been excellent. They were impressed with the many layers of functionality and the richness of information which our map contains. While still in the early stages of development, the tool does provide a way for users to search – mainly visually – for housing based on price information, job availability, proximity to essential resources and services like public transit, faith communities, and grocery stores.

 

Our next steps are going to be implementing more concrete search parameters that allow for presorting results and presenting precisely specified potential locations on the map which conform to user inputs, like a traditional real estate search engine.

 

A major challenge is estimating price information based on other factors. We’ve chosen to give an estimate of price based on census information and geostatical analysis. While not a precise measure, it does give a good picture of the affordability of areas relative to each other. Listings on sites like Trulia, Zillow, and Apartments are often outdated and contain misleading pricing information so we’ve elected to give our best estimate of price as a presorting feature which allows the user to narrow the results and then investigate promising properties websites for accurate pricing and availability information.

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City of Atlanta Crime Heatmap

We’re also adding additional information to the map that’s particularly germane to NAP. This includes ESL resource availability and neighborhood safety information. We have a ton on our plates for the next week but I think our site could go from being a serviceable tool to an invaluable resource to the people at NAP.