The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides annual grants to states, cities, and counties to support the development of viable urban communities by providing suitable housing and living environments, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for individuals with low and moderate incomes. Many communities in the United States rely on CDBGs to fund important public projects such as free health clinics, affordable/low-income housing, economic development, job training programs, infrastructure (sewer and water systems), and other activities.
While larger urban areas receive funds via a formula grant (“entitlement” communities), cities with populations of fewer than 50,000 and counties of fewer than 200,000 (“nonentitlement” communities) are required to apply to their states for funds. To apply for a CDBG, nonentitlement communities must show the population of their service area represents at least 51 percent low- and moderate-income households using American Community Survey (ACS) estimates.
However, ACS estimates can have large margins of error for small cities and towns, resulting in potential undercounting of low-income households. As a result, HUD allows these smaller communities to include in their applications data from surveys they conduct themselves. If a survey conforms to HUD’s guidance and shows the community is income-eligible, the community may apply for CDBG funds. Insight provided consulting services to Econometrica for this project that aimed to develop survey tools and standardized guidance to support CDBG communities collecting population and income data for their areas. A pilot conducted in five Washington State communities tested data collection platforms and methods to develop guidance for rural communities.
- Advised in sampling, methods, and design of the pilot
- Developed recruitment materials and data use agreements for communities
- Assisted in development of training materials for face-to-face data collection
- Conducted door-to-door interviewing in pilot communities
- Provided feedback on use of the data collection tool
- Contributed to the survey guidebook developed to assist communities in conducting their own surveys