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Lexington Housing Dashboard
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Lexington Housing Data Dashboard

The Lexington Housing Data Dashboard is a tool designed for visualizing and understanding high-level trends in housing in Lexington-Fayette County. It is currently in development by the 2014 Code for America Lexington fellows.

The dashboard displays neighborhood-level data -- such as building permits, foreclosures, and code enforcement housing violations -- on a year-over-year basis, allowing users to not only see how neighborhoods compare to each other, but also how neighborhoods have changed over time. Data for the dashboard has been provided by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

The Application

As of August 26, the application has the following datasets:

  • Building Permits
  • Housing Code Complaints
  • Nuisance Complaints
  • Foreclosures
  • Average Property Value

The Project

The tool itself is built based on the development version of the Charlotte Quality of Life Dashbaord, built by Tobin Bradley for the City of Charlotte, NC, Mecklenburg County, and UNCC. That project is also in production and can be found here.


The dashboard is a node.js application that is actually just a static site generator. The resulting dashboard can be played with in the browser without having to set up any sort of development environment.

The map in the application uses D3 for map data, which means it will NOT work in Internet Explorer 8.

If you are interested in redeploying this for your city, however, that's a little more work. See the "Redepoying for Your City" section below.

Redeploying for Your City

The following section was written by Tobin Bradley, the maintainer of the Mecklenberg County Quality of Life Dashboard.

Here's a handy YouTube Tutorial on customizing the Dashboard for your area of interest if reading isn't your bag.

Project Layout

The good news about the new Dashboard release is setting up a site for you locality is much easier. The backend has been totally redesigned to easily handle adding data and customizing the app.

Your alt text

First let's take a look at how the project is laid out.

The root folder has the gulp, npm, and bower configuration along with .jshintrc and .editorconfig should you use those tools.

The assets folder contains everything you'll work on to build your dashboard, including the metric data, images, styles (less), and scripts. Images in assets\images\build are optimized into public\images\

Ignore bower_components and node_modules - those are for bower and nodejs to worry about.

The public folder contains your processed site - concatenated and uglified JavaScript, preprocessed, auto-prefixed, and minified CSS, your processed data, etc. The only things you'll want to edit directly here are the index.html file, the data\geography.topo.json file (i.e. replace it), and optionally humans.txt.

Now that you have a feel for where everything is, here are the steps you'll need to follow to build your own dashboard:

Setting Up

Install nodejs

Installing nodejs is a piece of cake. On Windows, download the install file and click Next until it stops asking you to click Next. On MacOS I have no idea, but there's probably a draggy-droppy involved. Any Linux distro will have nodejs in its repos, so do a sudo pacman -S nodejs or sudo apt-get install nodejs or whatever package management magic you system employs.

To make sure everything went well here, when you're done installing pull up a terminal (that's DOS for you Windows types) and type node --version. You should get some like v0.10.28.

Install topojson, gulp and bower

I'm using gulp as the build/dev system, because awesome. We'll be using topojson to encode our geography. Bower is being used to manage JavaScript dependencies. To install them, head to a terminal and type:

npm install -g gulp topojson bower

On Linux you'll need to sudo/run as root. Done.

Clone or download/unzip the project

If you have git installed, just:

git clone whatever-you-want-to-call-it
cd whatever-you-called-it
git checkout master

If you don't have git installed, grab the zip file and unzip it someplace.

Install the project's nodejs and bower dependencies

We need to install our gulp extensions and some required JavaScript libraries are handled by bower. Those dependencies are specified in package.json and bower.json respectively. Note you need to run these commands in the root of the project folder.

npm install
bower install
gulp init

Fire it up!

Gulp is configured with its own web server complete with livereload for development, so when you change the code your browser will automatically refresh. To start the development environment, just type:


Note you need to run this command in the root of the project folder.

Customize the Dashboard for your area

Data in the dashboard comes in three pieces:

  • Your neighborhood geography, which will be stored in topojson. It has one attribute: the neighborhood id.
  • Your metric data, with each metric being stored in a CSV file. This file has a neighborhood id attribute and a column for each year of data in the format y_<year>. You can have as many or as few years as you have. If only one year is available, the time slider and trend chart will automatically hide. Null values should be empty, as in <id>,12,,14.
  • The metric metadata, with each metric metadata being stored in a markdown file with a particular format. More about that in a minute.


The first thing you'll need to do is convert your neighborhood layer to topojson. There are a lot of options during conversion, which you can peruse here. You should start out with an Esri shapefile or geojson file. The file will need to be in WGS84 (EPSG:4326). You can use ogr2ogr to project a shapefile or, if the command line isn't your bag, I highly recommend QGIS.

From there the process of making the topojson file is easy. You can look through all of the options if you wish, but here's what I did:

topojson -o geography.topo.json -s 7e-11 --id-property=id_field your_shapefile.shp

With id_field being the field in the shapefile you want to use for your neighborhood identifier. Copy that file into public/data. Make note of what your shapefile was named - you'll need that information when you update config.js as explained under Final Touches.


Now for a metric. You can name the metric file whatever you want; I'm doing them as m1, m2, but it isn't very important. Each metric file is described as above, and if that isn't clear check one out in assets/data/metric.

Having the metrics as CSV files gives us some of benefits. First, I'm working with a lot of non-technical people on the data, and CSV's are extremely easy for them to handle. Second, separating each metric into its own file makes adding new data and years a snap. Adding a new metric or year is just adding or updating a couple of files. But it if makes you less queasy, it gets preprocessed into JSON on build.

After you add a metric, run gulp build to process it into the public folder.


Metadata files are named with the same name as the metric files they correspond with. So if my metric file is m1.csv, my metadata file is They are written in Markdown syntax and are preprocessed into HTML on build.

The easiest thing to do is take a look at the markdown files in assets/data/meta and take a look at what they look like. Editing markdown is a piece of cake for non-technical users, and our folks like to monkey with the metadata almost daily.

Now here comes the bummer. Because I'm splitting the metadata into three buckets on the app, there is some ugly lefty-righty crap going on in the code to make that happen. Because of that, if you want to format the metadata differently, you must edit assets/scripts/functions/metadata.js to meet your needs. It won't be hard, but not doing it will lead to disappointment.

After you add metadata, run gulp build to process it into the public folder.

Customize config.js

assets/scripts/config.js has a number of knobs you will need to turn to set up the dashboard for your area. These are things like the geographic starting point and zoom level, the name of the neighborhoods in your topojson file, unit types for metrics, metrics that may have raw data or accuracy data associated with them, and a few other odds and ends.

Edit index.html

Once you have your topojson, a metric, and metadata, head into public/index.html. You'll see an enormous select control with an id of metric at line ~95. Here you'll put in your metric as an option. So if your metric was named m1.csv, your option would look like:

<option value="m1">
    Whatever you're calling this sucker

You can put metrics in optgroups as well - they'll appear as headings in the dropdown and are searchable. You'll eventually want to change the title, links, etc. here before you go into production.

Build for deployment

Building for deployment does all of the niceties for you - JavaScript concatenation and minification, LESS preprocessing/auto-prefixing/minification, Markdown conversion, CSV to JSON conversion, image optimzation, and cache busting. From the root folder run:

gulp build

Note you need to run this command in the root of the project folder.

Deploy to github pages

git checkout master
gulp build
git checkout gh-pages
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