We are mapping every parcel of property on the planet and building the world’s best tools for collecting, displaying, and working with parcel information.
The United States of America was the first nation on Earth founded on private property. The first democratic decision made by Europeans on American soil was to have private property owned by individuals. Fascinatingly, this concept of private ownership arose alongside the idea of public information. Land ownership in the USA is public information, but it has never been brought together in one place and made truly accessible to the public before. Enter LOVELAND.
We grew out of the problems of Detroit, Michigan, where more than 50,000 vacant houses dot the decimated ownership grid. We rediscovered the NEED to know who owns the Earth so we can move forward. Knowledge of how we all own and use the Earth is profound, yet hidden. Our job at LOVELAND is to make this ownership grid visible to you.
Parcels are how land is divided up for ownership, use, and taxes. A quilt of parcels covers the planet. Each parcel has a unique ID which connects it to information used by municipalities and private organizations to keep land organized. There are an estimated 150 million parcels across America, and unless you're in the middle of the street, you’re standing or sitting on a parcel right now!
Parcels are public record information but have never been assembled and displayed to the public in one easily accessible place. Parcels usually live on paper maps and government databases. Loveland has been moving this data from cabinets and silos into the shared online world.
Over the last 18 months, we have researched all 3,234 counties in the USA and assembled as many parcels as possible through a combination of downloading data and importing data from mailed DVDs.
To date, we have put 100,000,000 parcels from across the country online and made them freely available.
The keepers of parcel data typically fall into three categories: local governmental agencies, state agencies, and third party hosts. Some cities, counties and states make this information accessible online.
For parcels that aren’t available online, Loveland requests copies of the data from the organization that maintains it. Depending on the organization (and what mood they happen to be in that day) parcels can be obtained for a nominal fee, or the total opposite of nominal.
In 2015, we began expanding our coverage of parcel datasets from simply just Detroit to the most populous 146 counties in America. We ran on the idea that this is where most people would be interested in property data and where the likelihood of well maintained digital parcel datasets would already exist. Our typical search begins with looking up information about a county GIS department. If a dataset is not available for download or if information regarding how to obtain the parcel datasets were not available, calls and emails are made in an attempt to reach out to the county.
As of today, this is what we have obtained:
Currently, only ten states in the U.S. have a full, freely available, digital statewide parcel layer. What all of these have in common is state legislation that enabled them to collect this data, and then make it freely available, when often the individual counties within these states had previously charged for that information.
Still curious about the significance of LOVELAND’s work to make parcel data public nationally and internationally? Think of it this way:
Parcels are like cells, and the data attached to parcels is like DNA. When parcels and parcel data are put together and shared publicly, we can start to understand how well the organisms that are our cities, states, and entire countries are functioning, and how to improve and modify them. We can see change over time, and indications of what the future has in store. Building a national database and map of parcel data is a foundational step in decoding the American property genome—the implications are enormous.
Want to understand whether your city is collecting enough property taxes to fund its operations? You’ll want to look at parcels for that. Need to examine the implications for disaster relief and insurance along the floodplains of the globally warming coasts? That’s a job for parcel software. Infrastructure reinvestment a priority? Efforts to conserve public lands? Concern over the next real estate related financial crisis? It all ties back to the ability to see and understand parcel data at the local, national, and international level. Here are just a few examples of how we've seen parcel maps put to use by different people:
We have developed software called The Land Grid that makes it easy to work with parcel data in your own private space. Here are a few projects we've done with the Land Grid:
If this topic and mission excite you, or if they can help you in your work, here are some things you can do:
We love working on ambitious projects with great people, places, and organizations. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-649-LAND, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter below!
As we continue our journey, we'd like to thank and recognize the pioneering research of the authors of: