The current state of the economy is a daily topic of discussion on the news and at dinner tables across the country. Of particular importance to Community Development offices within the Federal Reserve System is the economic state of low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities.
Existing government data provide some insight into how these communities are faring. However, many of the factors that play an important role in their economic health, such as job training opportunities, the availability of affordable rental housing or business owners’ ability to access credit, are not measured well through existing data sources.
To provide a more comprehensive read on LMI community conditions in the Ninth District, the Minneapolis Fed’s Community Development department has launched Community Insight, a semi-annual survey of community development and service organizations that serve LMI communities. The survey is designed to capture their perspectives on changes in local employment, housing, consumer finance and business conditions.
According to the survey, most Ninth District LMI communities experienced deteriorated economic conditions in the second quarter of this year compared to 12 months prior. The most pervasive signs of economic stress among LMI communities were increased demand for financial counseling, decreased availability of affordable rental housing and reduced access to credit for business owners (see Charts 1-3 below).
Survey responses also revealed some positive signs, including increased homeownership opportunities for LMI buyers with good credit and an increase in the number of micro-businesses.
The baseline survey conducted during the months of May and June 2011 contains responses from 335 organizations representing more than 180 cities and townships across the Ninth District. For more on the survey and its findings, view the full Community Insight report.