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Baltimore hires Landers to build housing database

Baltimore is paying Joseph T. “Jody” Landers III to be its Nate Silver of real estate.

The Board of Estimates approved a $35,000 agreement on Wednesday with Landers, a former mayoral candidate and former vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, to develop a graphic based database showing how the housing market has performed in each of the city’s neighborhoods. It’s similar to how Silver, at his website FiveThirtyEight, uses data and graphics to breakdown a news story, or find America’s best burrito.

“Part of the work I did with [Dundalk Renaissance Corp.] is I developed a template to graphically present housing market data at the neighborhood level,” Landers said.

After seeing the use Dundalk was getting out of this template, Landers pitched the idea to Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano. He said it will a big help to the city because it currently doesn’t have a way to track data and gauge the impact different housing incentives have in each neighborhood.

Using MRIS data going back to 1995, Landers will examine how many days a home stayed on the market, the average sale price and percentage increase or decrease over the prior year. He will also collect information on distress sales, percentage of foreclosure and the percentage of short sales. He will then draw in neighborhood boundaries using GIS mapping software to make sure the data is specific to a community.

“They may even be able to look historically and say ‘Oh yeah. We did this and that in this neighborhood and look what it did,'” Landers said.

Although he believes the database will be helpful to the city Landers also said Baltimore needs to be careful how they use the information. He said the data could be used to stigmatize an already struggling community.

“If you show a neighborhood that has had six years of steady decline in housing prices, I don’t think that’s something you necessarily want to announce to the world,” Landers said.