The central challenge for HUD was to ensure to ensure grantee government staff and community members alike could use these tools. The sum total of these improvements — the electronic submission template, expanded planning data, and mapping tool — will help communities use the Consolidated Plan as it was originally intended: a priority-setting and strategic decision-making exercise to allocate limited investments. Tools were designed to ensure that people could use them without specialized knowledge or software. HUD designed the eCon Planning Suite to democratize the planning process and deepen public participation by enabling local community members to discuss needs and priorities in a meaningful way using the same data grantees will use for their Consolidated Plans.
HUD anticipates that the enhanced consolidated plan will generate benefits beyond HUD funding. These tools will also be useful to grantees and community groups in advocacy and fundraising efforts to foundations and other federal agencies. HUD hopes the mapping tool and underlying data can help create a common data language across federal agencies and the private sector, improving the information available for neighborhood-level decisions beyond the Con Plan.
It’s time to move beyond simple compliance and budgeting to true partnership with grantees and communities. At HUD, we asked ourselves “What is it that only the federal government can do?” and we concluded that HUD can and should support communities in their work to assess needs, set priorities, and engage meaningful public participation in making targeted investment decisions.
The eCon Planning Suite will provide tools to make better planning achievable by more of our grantees. HUD is raising the floor to help those with the simplest, basic needs develop plans to those who need support to innovate. The eCon Planning Suite will change community planning for housing and community development in this nation, helping the field as a whole to address the challenges facing communities today.
What do you think of changes to the Consolidated Plan? Will they provide provide better community development outcomes?