Getting to Know the Important Local Work of PD&R’s Field Economists
Todd M. Richardson, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research.
HUD carries out much of its mission in Field Offices throughout the United States, and the field economists working in the Economic and Market Analysis Division (EMAD) are the local housing market experts on the ground representing the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R). Field economists support other HUD departments outside of PD&R; most notably, they review market conditions relating to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) multifamily mortgage insurance applications for HUD’s Office of Housing. Field economists also produce publicly available housing market reports, including Comprehensive Housing Market Analyses and the Regional Narratives and Housing Market Profiles for the U.S. Housing Market Conditions website. In addition, each month field economists update PD&R’s Market-at-a-Glance reports, which provide brief snapshots of current market conditions at the national, regional, and state levels as well as for every county in the United States.
PD&R’s field economists spend their careers developing specialized expertise in economic, demographic, and housing market conditions at a level that many economists do not get the opportunity to explore. Their analyses focus on market areas with various population sizes, but perhaps the greatest value they add lies in their work with smaller communities. Often PD&R’s field economists establish a federal government contact with local stakeholders in areas with smaller populations. From these site visits, valuable relationships are born, and mutually beneficial information is shared. The field economists collect quantitative and qualitative data to conduct their analyses, and the importance of the local community is acknowledged with the publication of a Comprehensive Market Analysis report on the area. These publications particularly benefit small communities for which published information may be limited.
PD&R’s field economists also fulfill numerous informal roles that have a real impact on communities throughout the nation. Some examples of this important work supporting our external stakeholders include speaking at local government events, advising nonprofits on community development programs, presenting at regional lender conferences, serving on local housing roundtables, providing interviews for local radio programs, and preparing congressional briefings. In addition to supporting external stakeholders, typical tasks that field economists pursue to support PD&R’s internal stakeholders include creating data maps, providing data assistance, preparing talking points, and providing data for rent comparability studies for setting housing contracts.
The field economist organization may be small, but this staff of 33 economists keeps PD&R closely connected to local communities. When large organizations such as the federal government can track the pulse of local markets nationwide, needs can be acknowledged and addressed more quickly. This local connection is critical to HUD’s mission to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.