Open City

Realtors Association Supports Open Public Data

By RTH Staff
Published August 31, 2011

The Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington has just sent a letter to Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina and City Council endorsing open public data. The letter, signed on behalf of the Association by Ann Forbes Arndt, Tim Mattioli, Ross Godsoe and Megan Platts, expresses support for Councillor Brian McHattie's motion on open data.

Citing improved efficiency for citizens and businesses looking to access city services, the opportunity to engage the community in building and sharing applications, improved efficiency within City Hall, the potential to "attract talented developers" to Hamilton and improved government transparency, the letter notes that cities across Canada are already "realizing the benefits of 'opening up' their data."

Following is the text of the letter:

Dear Mayor Bratina & Members of Council:

We are writing today in support of Councillor McHattie's motion regarding open data in the City of Hamilton, to be discussed at the September 12 GIC meeting. Representing over 2,500 REALTORS®, we have a direct line to the people who are choosing to call Hamilton home; the benefits of an open data strategy would make the city an even more desirable place to live.

In the past we've received comments from our members about the difficulty they have finding information on the City's website. From information on zoning, to school catchment areas to general recreation, there is no consistent, simple way to find answers.

With the digitization of nearly everything, standards and best practices have been developed around the storage and manipulation of data. We retrieve, assess and compare an increasing amount of information every day, from email to movie schedules. Cities also deal with an abundance of information, and most of it can be classified as "data": collections of information produced and employed by people and computers.

Increasingly, cities are realizing the benefits of "opening up" their data. With Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and most recently the Province of British Columbia taking the leap toward more open data policies, the basic cost/benefit analysis has already been done.

One of the core principles of the open data movement is collaboration and contribution by citizens. There is a community of developers just waiting for access to data sets that will allow them to build applications. These will not only help their fellow citizens navigate their city, but will also help staff at City Hall by allowing cross-departmental information-sharing and the efficiencies that would result. Of course, privacy concerns should not be ignored, however for the most useful data sets (bus schedules, for example) this is not likely an issue.

By adopting the proposed principals, the city may also retain and attract talented developers who would be able to commercialize the applications they build using this data. Our members would be eager customers.

Open data should be seen as a benefit on a number of levels. It contributes to government transparency and accountability; it allows citizens to become more engaged in their community, either through the development or use of applications; and it should be valued as an economic development tool. For these reasons we feel that the adoption of open data would be a wise decision for council and the city.

Sincerely,
REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington

Ann Forbes Arndt
20111 President

Tim Mattioli
2011 Government Relations Chair

Ross Godsoe
CEO

Megan Platts
Manager, Government & External Relations

10 Comments

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By water in desert (anonymous) | Posted August 31, 2011 at 11:27:51

And not a moment to soon in a city that's desparate for less secrecy and more openness.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 31, 2011 at 12:12:16

While I agree with the sentiment, I'm having a little trouble applauding their letter when I've got all this "Oh my God they're such freaking hypocrites!" stuck in my mouth.

Seriously - realtors supporting open data?

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted August 31, 2011 at 14:27:47

Whats a Realtor?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 31, 2011 at 16:01:39

So when do we get access to MLS data?

That's what I thought.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted August 31, 2011 at 16:19:06 in reply to Comment 68786

That is exactly what I thought when I read this nonsense. A real joke coming from realtors.

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By Rawrs (anonymous) | Posted September 01, 2011 at 19:29:33 in reply to Comment 68789

Since when do taxpayers pay for MLS?

That's what I thought.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted September 01, 2011 at 00:43:56

Maybe if we get the beekeepers and bakers unions to weigh in then they will take it seriously. They just don't care about anyone.

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By Megan (registered) | Posted September 01, 2011 at 12:25:56

I think the difference is privately owned data vs publicly owned data.

The national association is currently implementing their data distribution facility, which in the third phase will allow third-parties access to some data.

The provincial land registry (run by Teranet) has nearly the same information as is contained in the MLS system, as does MPAC, these are both government owned data pools that are fee-based.

Comment edited by Megan on 2011-09-01 12:30:19

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 02, 2011 at 10:08:28

The thing about MLS is the control it gives the Realtor's board over the markets. 90% of sales go through it. This grants an exclusive organization the ability to charge thousands of dollars at a time for use of this information, and they don't exactly have the best reputation for openness or tolerating cheaper competition.

http://www.thestar.com/article/649558 http://www.yourhome.ca/homes/realestate/...

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By Cathie (anonymous) | Posted September 09, 2011 at 11:55:55

First property records can be had for a small fee at the regional record dept. In the US the info is free and online mostly. Second selling prices are made public as well and school boundaries ie catchments are made public on school district sites. Not so in Hamilton or most of Ont. http://www.ontario.ca/en/information_bundle/land_registration/STEL01_130081.html

I do not even live in Ont anymore and I know this information.

http://www.ontario.ca/en/information_bundle/land_registration/content/STEL02_165696 You need name and address and a debit or interac card as you get the info. of a computer and you need the card to pay the fee.

For by laws you call the city and they may or not call you back. The laws should all be online but here some. http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PlanningEcDev/ and there some provincial regs. Found on www.canlii.org and www.ontario.ca See the Ontario Gazette on this link.

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