Somerville Housing Challenge, Sunday, July 15th, 1-5pm

WHAT: The Somerville Housing Challenge Pilot Workshop will be the first of what we hope will be an ongoing process to explore publicly available data related to housing (and, eventually, other topics!) We hope to bring together people who understand housing challenges and people interested in data analysis/coding. We hope to ask and begin to answer some questions about aspects of Somerville’s affordability and housing crisis. Teams may also wish to begin to design applications that relate to housing. It’s an all-hands-on-deck invitation – join in whatever background, interests, and experiences you bring!

WHY: Somerville has many housing challenges. Our city has grown more expensive. Property taxes and fees are increasing. We have very little open space. Data is available at the city and state level that can help us figure out more about the challenges we face and inform our choices about how to solve them. The public data we have includes the city census and the city assessors database as well as data on building permits, parking permits and campaign finance data.

WHEN: Sunday, July 15, from 1-5pm, with happy hour following

WHERE: Somerville Community Corporation, 337 Somerville Ave, Somerville

RSVP: Please register so we know how many people to expect. You can also share the registration link: and join our mailing list to be part of the planning conversation.


1-1:15PM: Introductions and overview of day

1:15-2PM: Presenters will share: 1. personal and professional experiences with the housing crisis, and 2. basic and more advanced techniques to analyze the data available.

2-2:15 PM: Coordinators of break-out groups will introduce the data they have available and what questions the data may help us answer.

2:15-4 PM: We will break into teams to explore questions we have, and to clarify questions and begin to answer them.

4-4:45 PM: Groups present out on their work and attendees will share feedback, questions.

4:45-5PM: Discussion of next steps (We expect this will be the first of an ongoing series of housing challenge discussions)

5-6PM: Post-event happy hour.

CONTACT: Stephanie Hirsch (, 617-512-4847) and Jamie O’Keefe ( with questions or suggestions.

DATASETS, TEAMS, & QUESTIONS TO EXPLORE: We expect that we will break into the teams listed below, though more may be added before or at the event (please suggest your ideas for a team!) We hope teams will be a mix of people with experience of the housing crisis, policy experts, and data experts or software engineers that can begin to answer questions raised plus ask new questions. See list for initial questions raised.

Property Ownership & Sales (Leaders: TBD)

Questions: This team will work to answer questions like: Who is buying? Who is selling? How has that changed over time? How many property sales are speculative purchases? How many rental units have been lost to condominium conversions? How many short-term rentals are there and what’s their possible impact on the housing market? What does an investor purchase, renovation, convert to condos, and re-sell process look like in depth?

Potential Datasets: A de-identified dataset of properties (, property transaction data from Middlesex Registry of Deeds (, business ownership (such as for LLCs) from the Secretary of State Corporations Division (, Somerville building permits (, Somerville commercial building permits (, AirBnb Listings (

People’s Living Situations (Leaders: TBD)

Questions: This team will work to answer questions like: How many residents are owner occupants? How many naturally occurring affordable housing units exist and who are the benevolent landlords in the city? How can we encourage landlords to rent for below-market rate? Are there seniors living in large homes who would like to rent some of their space but face hurdles? How much housing is there by living arrangement, life stage, income level, ownership, etc.? How many students live in the city outside of university dorms, where do they live, and where would they prefer to live? How many households have 4+ unrelated people, and what would be the impact of changing this policy?

Potential Datasets: A de-identified linked dataset showing home occupants with type of home ( ), US Census data.

Parking & Land Use (Leader: Chris Allen)

Questions: This team will discuss the relationship between parking and affordability, open space, and streets. With one of our four miles dedicated to streets and parking spaces, parking policies are important (and not as frequently discussed) land use decisions.

Potential Datasets: Parking permit data ( and City Assessing data (