The marriage of technology to many age-old processes is helping spread information faster. Sharing information can help give visibility to problems along with best practices that may help guide and shape the future for others. Collaboration is a huge step to avoiding challenges and risks that otherwise may mean the loss of years of time and money.

A new application helps cities share information for the purpose of improving the affordability of housing.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago released an innovative app in February that does some heavy data lifting for city officials across the U.S. The Peer Cities Identification Tool lets users group cities side by side to find out which urban areas share similar struggles in affordable housing and economic growth.

The goal is to get cities talking to each other to share best practices — helping that city in the Midwest with an unemployment dilemma find a demographic West Coast twin that’s starting to spur job growth, for example. Researchers chose 300 cities that had populations of 50,000 in 1960, and compiled census data according to four metrics: equity, resilience, outlook and housing.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago had success with an earlier platform, the Industrial Cities Initiative, which looked at similar issues but only across 10 Midwest cities. Praise for that and hundreds of interviews with city officials inspired the PCIT.

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