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New website provides data on our quality of life 

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It's well known that parts of East Durham are not basking in the economic boom that much of rest of the city is enjoying. But now we have easily accessible, understandable data to show the extent of the neglect.

The Durham Neighborhood Compass (compass.durhamnc.gov) provides information on housing, income, crime, transportation and access to amenities such as banks and groceries for every census tract and block group in the county. The website is free and open to the public.

These two block groups in East Durham are the target of the city's poverty task force; together, they have the second-highest poverty rate in the county. (The South Side ranks first, although investment is happening in that area.)

Government officials can analyze the data to provide services such as the construction of sidewalks and addition of bus stops. Neighborhood Improvement Services can look at the numbers to enforce the housing code in neighborhoods with a high concentration of rentals but that lie outside of the priority areas. "We can look at our performance and know where we haven't been," says John Killeen, Neighborhood Compass Project Manager at NIS.

Most important, the public can use the data to lobby for underserved communities. For example, no one in these two neighborhoods lives within walking distance of a bank, which can force residents to patronize check cashing centers that often charge exorbitant interest rates. All FDIC-backed lending institutions are legally required to serve low- and moderate-income areas. Advocates could use this data to report to the FDIC the dearth of banks and credit unions in this area. Nor is there a pharmacy within walking distance, yet 12 percent to 22 percent of residents receive Supplemental Social Security Income, indicating they have a disability.

"More than anything, people can use it to advocate," Killeen says.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Durham compass gives direction."

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