State of the Web at HUD

February 11, 1999

The World Wide Web has grown beyond anyone's expectations. In 1995, when HUD posted its first web page, there were an estimated 5 million users world-wide. At that time, experts predicted that there would be 16 million users by 1998. In fact, in 1998 there were 60-70 million in the United States alone! Presently, there are an estimated 5 million web sites, world-wide.

HUD has been part of this avalanche of web activity, and there is very good news to report! HUD remains a leader among federal agencies in using web technology to deliver well-written information products and well-executed interactive business applications to the public and employees. HUD's Homes and Communities web site and HUDweb reap praise from our users and awards from web reviewers; and HUD's new HUD Next Door Kiosks and HUD Answer Machines demonstrate the Department's commitment to innovation and to using technology to bring HUD to Americans. HUD really is using technology effectively to make government more accessible. It's helping us do more, with less.

Presently, HUD has four web-based information products:

  1. HUD's internet "Homes and Communities Page,"
  2. HUDweb, our intranet: available only to HUD employees;
  3. The HUD Answer Machines: computers located in each HUD office that provide free internet access to the public; and
  4. The HUD Next Door Kiosks: touch-screen information sources located in malls, libraries, grocery stores, city halls, and federal buildings across the country.

HUD's Homes and Communities Page

HUD's internet home page, currently in its eighth release, has existed since April 1995. The Homes and Communities page is designed as a clearinghouse of information and services for citizens and for HUD's business partners, organized and articulated in ways that make sense to them. It gives our audiences access to information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In effect, HUD never closes!

Each month, some 300,000 visitors to HUD's home page access 3.5 million pages of information! Most visitors come to the web site looking for information on how to buy a home or how to get rental assistance. Based on "guest book" entries, we estimate that 75% of the visitors to the HUD home page come as private citizens. 25% are business partners or potential business partners.

If the entire Homes and Communities Page were printed in hard copy - including handbooks, research, reports, and all the other documents available online - it would exceed 1 million pages! HUDClips, alone, contains 55,000 handbooks, notices, regulations, forms, and other official issuances. HUDUser, our research compendium, holds some 150 documents, reports, and publications. That's a huge amount of information that we make available to the public!

The home page offers 30 interactive, online applications - with at least 15 additional web-based applications currently in development - that permit HUD's business partners to do work via the internet. The addition of "webcasting" - broadcasting live and video-taped presentations via the web - has taken us in exciting new directions, enabling HUD to deliver training sessions, press conferences, and other events to the public. We figure it's no coincidence that Microsoft has a stake in MSNBC and that it recently bought WebTV - it's easy to imagine these technologies coming together.

HUD's home page has received awards from such web reviewers as USA Today, Dow Jones, Yahoo, Excite, and the National Center for Super-computing Applications. We are delighted that, for two years in a row, HUD's Homes and Communities Page was named one of the 15 "Best Feds on the Web" by Government Executive Magazine. Considering that there are an estimated 5,000 federal web sites, that's high praise! Our "Kids Next Door" section of the web site recently was recognized by TeacherNet (sponsored by Highlights for Children magazine); and last year, the web site was a semifinalist in two categories ("government" and "community") for the prestigious Global Information Infrastructure awards.

    Audience Reaction:

    WOW- A US Government site that is easy to use and provides REAL information!!! Just when I thought the information super-highway was closed for repairs. Thank you and GOOD WORK!!! - Robert Ashby, Attorney, Savannah, GA

    What a pleasant surprise! In doing some research on FHA loans I stumbled across the HUD website - it's FABULOUS! Well put together, visually delightful - the kids pages are a buried treasure. Makes me happy (for once) about where my tax dollars are going. Keep up the good work - and publicize! - Joanne Riley, Educational Technology Services, Needham, MA 02494

    Just wanted to thank you for this wonderful website, and no doubt, the effort you guys have invested in maintaining it. Without this being available, we probably would never have known about the property that we were successfully able to purchase. WE LOVE THE PROPERTY AND YOUR WEBSITE!!! Keep up the good work!!! -

    This is the ONLY site I have found to date that gives information without a sales pitch (I know, that's the point), but it is refreshing. The site is well designed, and very well maintained. Also, this is very effective, educating the buyer before he/she/they get too deep and can't get out. Thank you again!!!!!! -Sheila J Schweers, Florence, SC

    This video internet link (webcasting) is the best thing since sliced bread. It allows me to stay current with your training without requiring a great deal of travel and time. Keep up the great work and innovative ideas. --Andy Stierwalt, Executive Director, Salina Housing Authority


HUDweb is the Department's award-winning internal information network or "intranet". It has the features and advantages of the internet, but can only be seen and used by HUD staff. HUDweb was created in November 1996 as a management tool for communicating important information within the Department; and for doing work electronically. For 2 years in a row, Webmaster Magazine named HUDweb as one of the 50 best intranet sites in the federal and private sector - one of only 4 intranets to win this award twice.

The HUDweb homepage has experienced a phenomenal increase in use by HUD staff since it was launched just over 2 years ago - - going from only 21,459 visits in November 1996 ; to more than 724,800 visits in January 1999! One of HUDweb's busiest days was in October 1997 when the HUD 2020 jobs were posted. HUD staff visited HUDweb 170 times per second to see those jobs. Interest in jobs and benefits information has remained high - more than 48,000 visits to pages with that information during January 1999. In the past year, staff use of HUDweb has increased by 200%.

HUDweb gives HUD staff quick access to information. Every day when employees turn on their computers, they get the Daily Focus Message on HUDweb. New information is added to HUDweb daily; and the front page changes each week to highlight important information. There are �home pages' for individual offices; and one-stop pages for staff doing the same job in different offices, such as Community Builders and Public Trust Officers. On each HUDweb page, there is an e-mail link to tell staff who to contact to ask questions or get additional information.

HUDweb has more than 30 on-line processes to help staff do their work. They can request kiosks; look up phone numbers; buy savings bonds; fill-in forms; or review information provided by HUD business partners. HUDweb's 16 chat rooms give employees the opportunity to meet on-line to exchange ideas and get technical assistance. The HUD 2020 Managing Change chat room was joined by more than 6,200 employees.

The reason for HUDweb's success is clear: it helps employees work smarter and more efficiently by putting the information and tools they need to do their jobs literally at their fingertips.

    Audience Reaction:

    "HUDweb is an invaluable tool for Community Builders. I use it to search for information on a daily basis. The descriptions on HUD programs are also very helpful." Melissa Mering, Associate Community Builder, San Diego.

    "I used HUDWeb to access Employee Express to change my direct deposit and it was a snap." Alex Sachs, Public Affairs, HUD San Diego.

    "My daily routine starts with a morning stretch, a glass of juice and a mouse-click on the HUDWeb Highlights "New on HUDweb" feature to learn about important developments, items of interest and other staff announcements. I find this is the best source of HUD news that is of interest to all employees."

    "I can't believe that I can actually see my personnel data on-line! It feels like employees are getting the same kind of customer service that we're trying to give our outside clients."

HUD Answer Machines

HUD's Answer Machines are one of HUD's best-kept secrets! Answer Machines are nothing more than standard computers with attractive "frames" on the monitors. They were installed in all 81 HUD offices in March 1998, providing the public free access to HUD's Homes and Communities Page. To our knowledge, HUD is the only federal agency providing free internet access in every one of its offices. We estimate that more than 9,000 citizens have used HUD's Answer Machines in the past 6 months.

At the National Urban League conference in Philadelphia, last summer, several homeless groups were invited to visit the exhibit hall where our kiosk and home page were being demonstrated. One homeless man was pleased to find the information about shelters and services that our home page offers, and he was even more delighted to find out about our Answer Machines. The reason? The Answer Machine in the Philadelphia HUD Office is closer to his street location than the library - where he normally uses the internet!

    Audience Reaction:

    Your "HUD Answer Machine found in the Orlando office is fantastic!!. It has current and relevant information to the Orlando area and then leads you onto other local, state, and national sites/info. JOB WELL DONE - Anonymous

    I recently retired from DOT after 40 yrs in Fed gov. This is a great service to your employees. It is indicative of the compassion and the great social contribution your employees are making to make this a better country for all of us. thank you - (no name)

    At the DC Storefront, the receptionist was approached by a security guard from one of the neighboring federal office buildings about the Officer Next Door program. She referred him to the Answer Machine where he found more information. As he had additional questions, a Community Builder brought him over to her desk for additional one-on-one aid. - (anonymous observer)

    The kiosks, and especially the HUD Answer Machines are working out very well and are being received enthusiastically by the public. It is truly achieving the goals of bringing Government services to the people in their neighborhoods in a friendly and non-intimidating environment.- Summit Research Associates

HUD Next Door Kiosks

HUD's innovative new electronic kiosk was unveiled in May 1998, at the opening of HUD's first storefront office in Washington DC. Since then, 33 additional kiosks have been installed around the country in city halls, federal buildings, shopping malls, transportation centers, grocery stores, and public libraries. By the end of this fiscal year there should be 90 kiosks in place, with more planned for upcoming years.

HUD Next Door Kiosks bring HUD to the people, instead of making the people come to HUD. The kiosks are intended to offer basic information about HUD's programs, in a simple-to-use touch-screen format. Because they are web-based, content can be updated quickly and easily. Furthermore, the content is the same as, or similar to, content on HUD's home page. So users who want more information and who can get to our home page will find consistency. Currently, the kiosks contain about 100 pages of content. 80 pages are generic HUD information, and 20 pages are tailored to the local area.

To date, we estimate that kiosks have served more than 15,000 citizens. Most kiosk users seek information about how to buy a home, rental help, and how HUD dollars are used in their communities.

The HUD Next Door Kiosks have been recognized by Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government with the Hammer Award, for improving the delivery of service to the public; and they've received favorable press in the New York Times, the Denver Post, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The HUD Answer Machines and the HUD Next Door Kiosks, as part of the Secretary's overall HUD Next Door management strategy, have been nominated for an Innovations in American Government Award.

    Audience Reaction:

    Customers interviewed said they enjoyed the kiosk, found it easy to use, easy to navigate, and would use it again without hesitation. Demographically, this was a very diverse group, and all users --from widely-divergent socio-economic groups--used the kiosks easily, without outside assistance and without difficulty. - Francine Mendelsohn, Summit Research.

    The Kiosk was the hit of the (trade) show! We did not have the best booth, location wise, but we had crowds six deep. The Fair was in El Paso and the Spanish version was used about 50% of the time. The most used feature at this particular show (first time homebuyers) was the mortgage calculator. I encourage you all to use this tool. - Andy Hackney, HUD Lubbock Office


HUD was one of the first Federal agencies to develop and implement a marketing plan, reaching out to audiences to let them know where they can get the information and services they need, using our web products. In the past year, Web Team members attended 20 national conferences - including NACo, League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Urban League, LULAC, and ICMA - demonstrating HUD's web products and telling our potential audiences how our products can help them. In the past 6 months, we published and distributed more than 17,000 brochures describing HUD's home page, Answer Machines, and kiosks; and we've given every HUD employee a brochure about HUDweb.

As part of our marketing strategy, 5 portable versions of the HUD Next Door Kiosk were created so Web Managers, Community Builders, and other HUD staff can demonstrate the kiosk - along with the home page - at major conferences, meetings, and events. In the first half of 1999, "baby kiosks" are already scheduled to appear at 63 events around the country. They've been taken to state fairs, home and garden shows, homebuyer fairs, shopping malls, and local and national professional meetings. The baby kiosk even is going to the Maine State Legislature! We've collected more than 100 business cards from mayors and other local officials who have asked for a kiosk in their cities and towns.

To emphasize the importance of using the web to do work, we held our first Web Day at HUD, in October. The Deputy Secretary helped us encourage HUD employees to explore HUD's web products and to use them on the job; and Web Managers across the country held demonstrations of HUD's web products. In Headquarters, we've followed up with monthly "Web Drop-In Days," where we provided further one-on-one coaching to as many as 40 employees within 2 hours.

Another innovation we pioneered at HUD, as a marketing tool, is an automated home page tour, distributed on CD ROM. Community Builders and Web Managers throughout the Department are using the CD tours to help them do presentations to client groups. Copies of the tour were sent to every member of Congress.

Interagency Web Projects

HUD is involved in developing and maintaining several federal "one-stop" web sites, such as Consumer.Gov and the U.S. Nonprofit Gateway. We serve as the host for the U.S. State and Local Government Gateway web site, an interagency effort which received a Hammer Award. HUD's representative to the Gateway sits on the oversight committee. Last year, HUD's Web Team worked with the Vice President's National Partnership for Reinventing Government to develop a successful application for seed funds for the State and Local Gateway, from the Governmentwide Information Technology Systems (GITS) oversight committee.

The Web Network

The Departmental Web Team depends on a whole network of program office and field office Web Managers, most of whom volunteer to do this work in addition to their other duties. These Web Managers create the pieces of the web sites, keep them fresh and current, help us market HUD's web products, and respond to daily e-mails from citizens, business partners, and employees asking questions about HUD's programs and operations. On average, HUD Web Managers handle about 400-500 web-generated e-mails each day; And we often receive thank you notes from people who are grateful for the quick and helpful responses they get from Web Managers. Government Computer News did an informal survey last fall and found that HUD was one of 12 agencies that responded to webmail nearly immediately.

We are proud of the fact that, this year, HUD's field offices and headquarters offices adopted standard templates, further enhancing our efforts to streamline HUD's web sites, to give them a single "HUD look and feel," and to make it easier for our audiences to navigate the web sites. Presently, we are at work planning the 1999 Web Managers Training Conference, which will focus on writing and editing for the web plus marketing and document preparation. For the first time, we will hand out HUD's �Webbies," honoring outstanding work by HUD's program and field office Web Managers.

Points of Pride

There is much to be proud of in HUD's web efforts. In addition to the ones already mentioned, highlights include these:

  • FHA Connection, which provides loan processing services for lenders, records 90,000 - 95,000 transactions per day. More than 8,000 lenders and servicers are using FHA Connection to do business with HUD.

  • More than 3,000 users have tuned in to one of our 30 online "webcasts," in the past 9 months. This year, every SuperNOFA satellite broadcast also will be available live and on tape via HUD's home page.

  • All 4,400 housing authorities use PIH's online systems, such as the Multifamily Tenants Characteristics System, to input and manage information. Nearly 1,000 CDBG grantees use CPD's IDIS online system to manage their grants.

  • We offer nearly 1,000 best practices in housing and community development on the HUD home page, with more to be added this year. Users can search by key word to find solutions to problems they are facing.

  • In the past 6 months alone, FHEO has received 370 housing discrimination complaints via our online complaint form. HUD's IG has received 235 hotline complaints, via the web, in the past year.

  • 224 HUD employees have completed the GTR orientation training class on HUDweb

  • 20% of the new subscribers in the Savings Bond campaign signed up through HUDweb.

  • Administration processes 150 online requests for publications and forms, each week.

The web is helping HUD work more efficiently and effectively. It gives the public and business partners what they want, when they want it. It frees up HUD staff from answering routine questions, allowing them to do more productive work. It puts tools and information that employees need to do their work, right at their fingertips. It's improved HUD's image with the public by giving them friendly, easy-to-understand consumer information. It's given us a new way to do business and a new way to reach out to the people we serve. It's a good thing!


Content Archived: March 2, 2011