Transparency Initiatives

The Open Government Directive describes transparency as promoting "accountability by providing the public with information about what the government is doing." In order to achieve this goal, HUD will increase its efforts to publish information in open formats that can be utilized by a wide variety of users. The following sub-sections introduce transparency related projects HUD is currently or will be undertaking. The Department already conducts some these activities, but there is room for improvement in making the relevant processes and data more open to the public.

Ensure HUD Regulations Are More Easily Available and Usable Online

One of HUD's major mission areas is the administration and enforcement of laws. For example, fair housing laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or family status. Relevant laws and statutes are relatively complicated and not always easily accessible.

HUD will publish its regulations in machine-readable formats for direct use by the public, HUD employees from other mission areas, other government personnel, and private-sector developers. This will increase the transparency of these regulations, and allow for their broader dissemination and understanding. Third parties, such as community-based not for profits, will be able to more quickly disseminate information to their constituents, and more easily inform citizens of their rights.

Publish HUD-Assisted Housing Locations and Related Information

HUD strives to ensure America's citizens have access to safe, decent, and affordable housing. The Department does this through the outright ownership of housing stock, and also through various subsidies and rental voucher programs.

Open Government Initiatives Formulated from IdeaScale Comments:

  • T-1: Ensure HUD Regulations are More Easily Available and Usable Online
  • T-2: Publish HUD-Assisted Housing Locations and Related Information
  • T-3: Make Housing Related Laws more Accessible to the Public
  • E-1: Provide Improved Online Feedback Capabilities for Customers
  • E-2: Provide Online Capabilities for Public Review of HUD Regulations Prior to Implementation

Detailed information about HUD's housing portfolio, such as the availability of units and where they are located, has traditionally been inaccessible to the public. Gathering this information and putting it online in an easily navigable and machine readable format will allow for greater ease of use on the part of citizens requiring HUD's services. Moreover, it will enable researchers, developers, and other consumers of data outside of the Department to better utilize the information that is already being collected.

HUD is aware of the potentially sensitive nature of this information, and it will ensure that none of its customers' personally identifiable information (PII) is released during the implementation of this initiative. This will include limiting the level at which housing units are identified to the zip-code or congressional district level, thus limiting the ability of PII information being disclosed or discovered through mash-ups with other data.

Delivery mediums of the data released in accordance with this initiative will take into account its likely consumers. In particular, low-income members of the public might not always have easy access to the Internet. The effective delivery of such information will require internal education of HUD employees, as well as clear communication with community-based non-profits that interact with these customers most frequently.

In addition to aiding citizens participating in HUD's numerous assisted housing programs, the greater flexibility, accountability, and transparency that will result from this program will also be of great assistance to the Department in monitoring the state of its assets and the use of its funds.

Make Housing Related Laws More Accessible to the Public

HUD's Office of Hearings and Appeals is an independent adjudicatory office within the Department whose administrative law judges conduct hearings and make determinations in accordance with existing statutes, regulations, and procedures. These administrative law judges have jurisdiction to hear and decide cases involving certain sections of the US Code, as well as cases involving interstate land sales, HUD sanctions, and community block grants. The Department's current website allows citizens to read substantive decisions issued by administrative law judges, but does not contain subsequent determinations that might have been made by either the HUD Secretary or a Federal court.

This means citizens cannot necessarily discover the final outcome of a case. Additionally, the available cases are organized in simple chronological and alphabetical order, which makes conducting effective searches difficult. Uploading these cases in an easily searchable, machine-readable format would improve both the access and transparency of such decisions.

HUD will utilize this initiative to publish housing related laws in one centralized site that is easily accessible. Similar to the Public Resource's notion of a site, or the Federal Communications Commission's calls for transparency in expanding broadband access, HUD's site will be a central location that its customers can use to view and comment on laws affecting their housing rights.

Utilize Web 2.0 and Social Media Tools to Inform and Educate the Public and HUD Personnel

Since HUD performs a diverse set of functions, citizens seeking its services must often procure different forms from several different program areas. The resulting process can be confusing and time-consuming.

In an effort to better serve the American people, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has embraced social media and streamlined its Web site contact tools to facilitate open communication and total transparency.

As the new generation of information seekers primarily accesses news and other content through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, HUD deemed it essential that the Department get up to speed on today's popular channels of communication. After all, 50 percent of Facebook's 400 million users log on every day, according to Facebook. Furthermore, while only 21 percent of Twitter's 19 million users are active, that's still 3,990,000 people to reach, according to, a respected social media news blog.

HUD also created its own Youtube channel, which currently features Lead Free Kids, a collaborative effort with the Ad Council about lead-based paint, and a short informational video about fair housing. Users access 2 billion videos a day on YouTube, according to the site.

Ultimately, the proof is in the numbers and in the preferences of the American people. So, stay connected with HUD via RSS (really simple syndication) Feeds, the HUD Facebook page, HUD Twitter, the HUD Youtube Channel, the HUD wiki and the recently launched HUD Mobile site.

Numerous opportunities exist across the Department including innovative solutions that are not only directed at the public and customers, but internal HUD employees, as well. Field personnel have often stated the need for services that currently exist within HUD, but that they are simply unaware that they have access. Web 2.0 and social media delivery mediums will notify HUD field personnel of specific capabilities that can address their unique needs.

Create an Enterprise Wide Data Inventory and Storage Service

HUD currently manages over 52 programs that rely upon the collection and analysis of data. This data covers a broad range of information about housing inventory, customer demographics, performance of public housing authorities, and various other kinds of information. Some of this is stored in open formats and published on specific program areas' websites. HUD seeks to make this data more accessible by continuing its work to create an enterprise wide data inventory to properly log the location, purpose, and other relevant criteria of each data asset. This will include standardizing metadata, providing data context and usability guidance to consumers of the information, and distributing data through modern channels (including

The Department will also investigate the utility of an enterprise data storage service. Either through utilizing's proposed Shared Data Storage Service or its own repository, HUD will identify data that exists within its program and support areas, aggregate it, store it in one centralized service, and then publish it on, provided that the data in question is not sensitive in nature.

HUD's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) will conduct a feasibility study that compares's Shared Data Storage Service, its own proprietary repository, and any other options that may support this initiative. Implementation of this initiative will be performed in a phased approach that will identify goals that can be realistically achieved in 6, 12, and 24 months.

Create an Online Directory of Major Points of Contact within HUD

Besides its call centers, HUD currently lacks an easily accessible online directory of its vital points of contact. The creation of such a directory will be a simple, quick, and low-cost way of making HUD more transparent and accountable to the public.

Create Foreign Language Resources at HUD's Field and Headquarters Offices

The Department recognizes that it needs to increase its capacity to provide services to non-English speakers. HUD will build on its previous achievements and create new phone and web-based services at its headquarters, regional field offices, and call centers that are specifically tailored to citizens from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The primary emphasis of this initiative will be on making HUD's field offices more receptive and open to speakers of foreign languages, and the Department will strive to be as flexible as possible in allocating resources based on the backgrounds of customers in each field office's geographic area.

Participation in Federal Transparency Initiatives,,, and OMB's IT Dashboard

An important part of the Administration's Open Government initiative, increases the ability of the public to find, understand, and utilize information that is owned by the Federal Government. HUD has provided 5 datasets and 8 tools to Data.Gov that cover a wide range of topics. HUD's datasets and tools comprise everything from physical inspection scores and housing surveys to public housing rent estimates. HUD has followed a standard process for identifying and publishing datasets:

HUD's Submission Process

As previously stated, there are over 52 programs within HUD that collect and utilize data to fulfill their missions. The public's ability to discover the data that is published online is hampered by the lack of standardization around each program area's site navigation. These published datasets include such things as fair housing rents, public housing authority performance reviews, and a multitude of other things. The majority of the data that HUD collects, however, is not published online. HUD will utilize to continue the publication of its data, and use it as a central repository to enable the public to easily discover and utilize the data that HUD already collects.

HUD's efforts to publish its data will be dependent upon the completion of its data inventory. As HUD identifies data within each program area, it will immediately begin the publication and review process to upload the data to, or make necessary modifications to make the data publishable. The Department is already in the process of conducting these activities as it has data already nominated 11 more datasets for submission. The Department is committed to publishing additional high-value datasets monthly.

Due to the nature of its mission, HUD is an important stakeholder in the Obama Administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The department was allocated $13.61 billion under the act's auspices, and continues to play a major role in the administration's efforts to stabilize the economy in general and the housing market in particular. Information on HUD's involvement can be found at:

HUD is also complying with the all,, and OMB IT dashboard regulations.

Open Government Requirement: Release of 3 High-Value Datasets via

Leveraging, HUD has released 5 high-value datasets to the public in order to increase transparency. These five datasets include:

  • All Title VIII fair housing cases filed by the Fair Housing/Equal Opportunity program area since Jan 1, 2006
  • Multifamily housing physical inspection scores
  • Public housing physical inspections scores
  • Public housing inventory
  • Performance audits of public housing authorities

Together, they represent some of the Department's most important mission functions, and they present the public with data about HUD's operations, its inventory, and the performance of state, local, and tribal public housing authorities. HUD will explore how these datasets may be integrated with each other, or with other Agencies' datasets, to produce novel ideas and strategies. It is possible that connecting data on public housing inventory with information such as public transport utilization may produce insight into where future public investment may best be directed.

Records Management Program

HUD utilizes a robust records management process to properly preserve relevant documentation. The Department follows a three-stage lifecycle:

  1. Create record of documentation
  2. Enable the maintenance and ongoing use of documentation
  3. Archive and/or dispose of unnecessary documentation

The Records Management team provides training and policies to all HUD employees and contractors. More information on HUD's Records Management Program can be found at:

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program

HUD has been proactive in making documents available to the public and over the past several years has succeeded in reducing its FOIA backlog. At HUD, the median processing time for simple FOIA requests is 30 days, the mode is closer to 20, while the median is 45 days for more complex requests. At the end of HUD's 2009 Fiscal Year, there was a backlog of 192 FOIA requests. This was a 48% reduction from the previous year, and an 85% reduction from two years ago.

In 2009 HUD FOIA processes included 23 steps, making it difficult to meet the regulatory expectation of 20 days for responding to requestors. After initiating a lean six business improvement assessment the number of steps was reduced by 11. This process is being piloted in a headquarters program office and one regional office. The new processes will be evaluated in September for probable implementation across the rest of the Department.

HUD's current FOIA process is captured below:

HUD's FOIA Process

Pursuant to FOIA, 5 USC 552(a)(6)(A)(i), once HUD receives a FOIA request, the Department has 20 working days within which to make a determination on the request unless unusual circumstances exist. Under unusual circumstances, such as an Agency's backlog, or the need to examine a voluminous amount of records required by the request, HUD can extend the 20-day time limit.

In order to better assess the work output of FOIA staff, new performance measures were put in place in 2010. As a result management was better able to pinpoint staff weaknesses and clarify expectations. One employee has been placed on an opportunity to improve plan while others have increased their output. The manager is also tracking error rates to better identify those that are common and lend themselves to systemic solutions.

In May 2010, overtime was made available to all employees. Most employees are working an additional 16 hours each pay period to address their individual backlogs. Finally, management has stepped up its efforts to resolve old complaints that have languished. As a result of all of these measures it is expected that the backlog of 406 that existed at the end of fiscal 2009 will be reduced by 10% or more.

HUD's policy is to process FOIA requests using "multi-track processing," which allows the Department to process FOIA requests on a first-in/first-out basis within each track. HUD places FOIA requests in its routine or complex track based on the amount of work and time involved in processing the request. The criteria for assignment to a specific track are found in HUD's FOIA regulations, 24 CFR 15.105(a), which were published in the Federal Register on January 22, 2001, at 66 FR 6964.

The Office currently utilizes a Frequently Requested Materials section of its website to point users to the most frequent FOIA requests. The minimum threshold for a request to be put into this URL is 3 requests in the last 6 months. The Office has also designated one of its FOIA Specialists to work closely with program staff to identify additional records that can be made available to the public.

The office will explore how to make this process more consumer-friendly. This will include identifying ways that the FOIA office and program areas can better communicate to exchange information and data.

A new organization structure has been established for the Office of Executive Secretariat, which includes FOIA. Requests that come into the office via mail will go through a centralized mail room and a second team leader will be added to the staff.

The information system that supports processing of FOIA requests will be upgraded in fiscal 2011. The current system is limited in its capacity to provide reports, necessitating manual gathering of data needed to respond to required reports as well as the tracking of employee performance. The system often requires re-booting to retrieve FOIA requests submitted via PAL. In addition, redacting documents via FMS2 is time consuming; the updated version has a better capability to redact information that will significantly speed up that aspect of responding to requests. The upgraded system is easier to use and will significantly enhance the office's ability to provide accurate, timely reports.

More information can be found at:

Privacy Program

HUD is fully committed to protecting the privacy and security of visitors to its website. HUD only collects detailed personal information from eligible individuals who have affirmatively requested the Department's services. HUD also analyzes aggregate numbers of page hits in order to track the popularity of certain pages and improve the value of its site. However the Department does not gather, request, record, require, collect or track any Internet users' personal information during this process. HUD additionally maintains a variety of physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards to protect the personal information of visitors to its website. More information can be found at:

Congressional Requests

HUD's Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations is responsible for coordinating with program areas to ensure the effective and accurate presentation of its views to Congress and other Federal agencies. The Office also cooperates with the Office of General Counsel in developing the Department's position on all relevant legislative matters.

The Office is responsible for ensuring that all testimony and responses to Congressional inquiries are consistent with the Secretary's and the Administration's views, and is additionally tasked with resolving differences with the Office of Management and Budget during the development of the Department's proposed budget and legislative program. More information can be found at:

Use and Handling of Classified Information

HUD does not have the statutory authority to classify or declassify information; therefore, a specific declassification program does not exist.

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