The Power of Permit Data

December and January tend to be the most retrospective time of the year, a time when we look back over the previous year to see what we’ve accomplished.


And since we typically think about open data and government operations around the clock at Accela, we thought it would be interesting to look back at one view of government operations during 2014 using open data from the CivicData platform.

With this in mind, we built Permit Review, an open data application that provides a view of six governments and their handling of building permits in 2014 (as compared to the previous year).

This is a simple app, but it provides powerful insights into the activity in each of these governments around building permits. As we’ve done before, we’re using open source components and the CKAN API to quickly and easily put together a powerful web-based app. All of the code for this demo app is available on GitHub.

This app also underscores the importance of government data on building permits and highlights the possible insights that can be gained from doing so. Permits are often viewed as “municipal exhaust” – less immediate and visceral than things like crime data and restaurant health scores. But building permit data can provide huge insights to those working to understand and improve communities.

Permits data can be used as a proxy for economic activity and allow for insights into how an upswing (or downturn) in the economy plays out at the community level. It might show the changing character of neighborhoods, and how gentrification is playing out in cities. Additionally, it might help governments foster empathy with those they serve, by giving insights into the operations of government.

Permit data is powerful and the CivicData platform provides access to this data from multiple government agencies.

Leveraging the power of permit data, the flexibility of open source components and the utility of the CivicData platform, we can gain powerful new insights into how our governments – and our communities – work.

[Note – picture courtesy of Flickr user Dana McNabb]

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