The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched a new data and technology tool called the “eCon Planning Suite” to help communities apply for federal funding. The program is projected to save communities at least 65,000 staff hours each year. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says, “We know that in a time of huge budget cuts at the state and local level, it’s harder and harder to have the resources to bring that information together. This technology that we’re providing is going to be really revolutionary in helping all of our grantees work smarter.”
The eCon Planning Suite is comprised of an expanded planning database, an electronic template for submitting a Consolidated Plan, and a powerful new mapping tool called CPD Maps. The mapping tool will allow cities, counties, and states to access expanded planning data that will help them visualize where they have made federal investments in the past and guide them on where to focus their energies in the future down to the Census tract level. In addition, the public will be able to draw on this powerful new mapping tool to argue for public investments in particular neighborhoods.
The Consolidated Plan template is designed to guide applicants through an intuitive planning process driven by the same data the public can access in CPD Maps. Completed plans will be posted on HUD’s website in a standard format to allow grantees and the public to compare plans and identify best practices. This collection will form a national library of Consolidated Plans, creating a single place online to read about other local strategies and best practices. Consolidated Plans submitted on or after November 15, 2012 will be required to use the new template.
The template will also allow communities to instantly import information about needs and market data from CPD Maps into plans that they will electronically submit to HUD for review. The new eCon Planning Suite will significantly reduce paperwork, save time and money, and create a strategic roadmap to target federal funds where they can provide the most benefit.