HUD systems upgrade to improve services

The Housing and Urban Development Department wants to improve its image, and senior
staff members figure one way to do that is by upgrading HUD systems to improve access for
department users and the public.


Fairly or unfairly, HUD has become the poster child for what’s wrong with the
federal bureaucracy, department officials said. It’s an image HUD Secretary Andrew M.
Cuomo wants to erase.


“There is a great effort on the secretary’s part to turn the perception of
HUD around,” said Richard Burk, director of the Community Connections program.


Burk said the department has a three-pronged systems plan to help it become a
first-class service provider. It plans to bolster its geographic information system and
build an enterprise information system and enterprise data warehouse.


The work on improving HUD’s GIS is already under way as part of the
department’s Community 2020 project. The system combines HUD and Census Bureau data
in a planning and community data tool, Burk said.


HUD gives the GIS software to the 1,150 cities that receive HUD grants and has sold
another 2,300 copies to others who find it useful. For example, the HeadStart Program uses
the data to help it identify where the next HeadStart class should be, and the Health and
Human Services Department uses it to identify communities lacking adequate medical
services.


HUD in February awarded a contract for the second project to MicroStrategy Inc. of
Vienna, Va. HUD will use MicroStrategy’s decision support software to develop an
enterprise system that will give users access to analysis tools through Web browsers.


HUD planned to have the first set of data, its multifamily housing records, available
for online access early this month, Burk said. It will post another two data sets, one on
public housing and the other on single-family housing, by the end of June, he said.


HUD used two small servers for a pilot of the project, but it plans to buy three Compaq
ProLiant 5500 servers with quad processors, HUD project leader Joe Duffy said. Each of the
450-MHz ProLiant servers will have 20G of hard drive storage and 2G of RAM.
“That’s what we are hoping to get if we can find the money,” Duffy said.


Two servers will house the data and the third will be the Web server, he said.


The third part of the effort is crucial but will take the longest, Burk said. “To
do it well, we will need a warehouse,” Burk said.


HUD lacks funding for the effort, so it initially is making the basic data available
online without a data warehouse as the back end. The department’s users had an
immediate need for easy access to do basic searches of HUD information, Burk said.


Duffy’s team is focusing on the second phase of the initiative, Burk said, and the
department has made the building of a data warehouse, which will let users cross-search
data and do complex analyses, its ultimate objective.  


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