September 28, 2021
Affordable Housing Webinar Series
UX/UI
User Research
Civic

June Kissel:

Thanks so much for joining us today. My name is June Kissel, and I am from Exygy for Bloom Housing. If you don't already know, we are doing a panel webinar today about affordable housing and data and where those two collide. Before we get started, I just want to let everyone know that there's going to be a Q and a at the end. And so feel free to leave your questions between now and then at the Q and a tab. This is also going to be recorded. So we'll be able to send with everyone and then this recording, as well as all of our upcoming events are going to be in our bloom housing newsletter. So if you haven't already feel free to just subscribe to housing.exygy.com. So first I want our panelists to get the opportunity to introduce themselves, what they do and briefly get into where they fit into this intersection of data and affordable housing. So, Gabe, do you want to start us off?


Gabriel Doss:

Absolutely. Thanks so much June. I'm super happy to be here. My name is Gabriel Doss and I'm with google.org. I'm a fellow consulting with the city of Detroit to expand their access to affordable housing options using technology. Google.org has a fellowship program that embeds “Googlers” with a civic entity or a nonprofit for pro bono work for a period of time and will be met with the city of Detroit, you know, understanding their history as a thriving metropolis that has had quite a few changes economically over the past few decades, housing came up as sort of issue number one for the mayor here, Mayor Duggan. And so I'm a native Detroiter, which is an added bonus to work on this project, but I've committed my career to improving cities, particularly with considerations, for product inclusion I n my nine years at Google. Detroit's affordable housing locator is a really ambitious project and it aims to index the universe of existing affordable housing as well as new developments that are coming online this year into perpetuity. And so the goal is to provide residents with an understanding of properties’ accessibility features, the level of affordability for a property based on AMI or different voucher programs, and then finally to highlight availability, which is the mayor sticking point. He wants to know when a new unit in a building becomes available. And so as you can imagine, this is a very data dependent process and so thrilled to join you all today, to share some of our learnings so far.


Kissel:

Awesome. Great, thanks, Gabe. Kearey, I’m going to pass it off to you.


Kearey Smith:

Awesome. Hi folks. My name is Kearey Smith. I'm an assistant director for the data and visualization within the regional planning program at ABAG MTC. We're regional planning council of governments and metropolitan planning organization operating in the nine county Bay Area. My background is in regional planning. I started my career on regional planning issues like long range, transportation planning, regional housing need, as well as understanding local development policies. My career began at ABAG in 1999, where I worked on the regional housing need allocation reboot. I think that was cycled three. It was basically the 1999 through 2006 housing elements cycle. That project was laid by the Association of  Bay Area Governments. And for me, that project really highlighted the importance of establishing better baseline data on existing conditions and building a better understanding of land use potential both at the regional and local jurisdiction scales, all of it to help us achieve our ambitious regional housing goals. So one of the first things I did at ABAG after that project was established and built a regional plan land use database.


It was primarily in GIS, but mostly at the parcel level and the data that we collected while at the time, you know, it was not super accurate when you have the right tools, hardware to, to build these applications, to collect all this information, but it did sort of help us build better policy assumptions about growth in the region and have better conversations with the local partners around growth potential, which I think has always been a challenge in a region like ours. So both of these efforts that ultimately led to both ABAG and MTC embarking on new, more ambitious land use development, potential efforts with greater sophistication programs like Urban SIM started off where everything was sort of modeled at a parcel level, Vital Signs, an application that we use to track trends in the region is also an initiative that started out of this effort to have better, more consistent data across the region to track trends and understand policy implications that are associated with those.

So all of these efforts sort of help us to sort of get to where we are today. And I think what I'd like to do is just share a screen just briefly, to discuss how my team, the work that we do, different backgrounds and focus areas, but ultimately our goal is a pair data maps and applications that are primarily data-driven for our organization, and we use a lot of data to do all of our work. And a lot of this data is often disorganized and not necessarily placed in a way that makes it easy for us to achieve some of our goals. So one of our early efforts was to actually build a better data application support system that helps us collect better information from local jurisdiction. And I'll talk a little bit about that later in our conversation today. We prepare a lot of maps for our constituents. This information really helps us to create a common understanding of the challenges that we face in the region. This information is shared both to our commissioners, board members, local partners, as well as the public through Vital Signs and other applications that we use.



We build applications, a lot of custom applications, and these applications really are designed to help us dig into getting a better understanding of what's happening on the ground in the region. So those applications are things like Basis, the Bay Area spatial information system. And it's basically designed to help us create a framework of parcel data that is tied to land use and land use making decisions, applications like the housing element, Site Selection Tool, a new application that we're about to launch fairly soon, that is a pre-screening application that will support local jurisdiction efforts to find, identify housing sites for their housing element updates. So that tool is up as a technical assistance tool that we're working with our local partners to, to build and support them. So I'll stop there in terms of sharing. And I feel like that that really sort of gets at what I wanted to focus on today. I'll stop there and hand it back to, to June.


Kissel:

Awesome. Thanks Kearey. So yes, lots of numbers and data that you're working with. So I'm excited to dig deeper into that and last but not least, Barry.


Barry Roeder:

All right, thanks. My name is Barry Roeder and I manage strategic projects for the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development in San Francisco. My background is as a private sector product developer in finance and real estate. After a stint abroad in Argentina, I came home to San Francisco and I felt like my neighborhood was the third world. You know, just the disparity between incomes in the Tenderloin, which is my same zip code and six-figure cars driving by. And I was just really impacted by that, and I felt like I needed to get involved and do something to make a difference. So I left the private sector behind and took a job with MOHCD six years ago in time to start working on our DAHLIA Housing Portal, which some of you may know about as housing.sfgov.org . I'll put that in the chat, but I've been thrilled with the help of our partners at Exygy and some great folks, some of whom are on this call like Roshen Sethna, and you know, what we've been able to do to help users find and apply for affordable housing. But what we didn't expect is all the data that it kicks off and how we're able to do a better job of deciding what we build where, and, housing policy overall. And as we sort of amplify that on a regional level with the expansion of this platform, the things that we're learning and, and my hope is that we can go from not just helping people do better at finding and apply, but use this data to advocate for more housing resources overall. So, I'm so excited to be part of the call today. Thank you very much and welcome to everybody.


Kissel:

Awesome. Thanks, Barry. Yeah. And just to echo the efforts with Exygy and,  with DAHLIA and Bloom Housing and beyond. So we have very little time with you all, and we're going to try and pack in as much as possible. There's so much knowledge as you can see from these intros that I want everyone to hear from. So I'm going to play a facilitator role and take us through some key questions that will hopefully give you all a good background and grounding for what's happening at this intersection of affordable housing and data. So the first thing I want to do is sort of step back and emphasize to folks about the role data can play. We're increasingly seeing these positive benefits of data. People are wanting to inform their opinions from data, policymakers want to create evidence backed legislation, but in your opinion, what is good data in the affordable housing space?


Roeder:

Yeah, well, I guess I can dive in and just say that I, I tell this anecdote and some of you have heard this many times, but was it a City Council meeting down the Peninsula in the last year. And you know, someone who was coming to hear more about DAHLIA as part of considering whether or not they wanted to build it in their community. And someone out in San Mateo county noted that they'd passed a bus stop on the way, and there was a Latino family waiting for the bus and they said, you know, and it made me think, I think we need more housing for Latino families. I hope that person's not on the call today, but I thought to myself, gee,  gosh, I hope we don't make decisions like that; but we do in a way, because we haven't had demand side data in the past that shows us who's looking for our units, and where are they looking, and what size units are they looking for? And so you know, it's the sense of, gosh, we really have a chance to sort of make a radical shift in the way that we make these decisions to make better use of these incredibly scarce resources. And then as I mentioned before, maybe advocate for more, so, yeah, I think it's definitely a part of good decision-making and I hope that we continue to incorporate that in our work in the public sector.


Doss:

Yeah. Barry, I'd a hundred percent agree with that. You know, those are really good points.


<quick lag>


Kissel:

There might have been a lag, but yeah, I think, I think Gabe was going and then Kearey, we'll get to you.


Doss:

Sorry about that, Kearey. Yeah, it looks like there's a bit of a lag, but all I was going to say is that similarly in our project, you know, we've had to ask that question in particularly, you know, June to your point on how good data is determined, it's in the eye of the beholder, you know, we're driven by human centered design. And so for us, that was at the center understanding what users would need was at the center of what we wanted to build. That came from user experience research, and really getting on the ground, showing ideas, even to community members, to property managers and understanding if we were seeing the same thing that they saw. So for instance, you know, even the question of affordable housing, we showed our original mocks to a group of users and they ask, what do you mean by affordable, right?


Or when we talk about neighborhoods, you know, we were sorting and filtering by zip code or a colloquial neighborhood name, and they wanted to see something else. And so having that feedback loop deeply influenced what we then took to property managers, what we then took to the City of Detroit. And I think just collecting data for the sake of data, isn't good data. But when we have those insights from users that helped us narrow it down, and say “Hey, what are the most important insights that we can derive and surface for these people?” Particularly if they're looking for housing in a crunch and don't have time to sort of research the ins and outs, we want to be able to present the data in a way that it's digestible and actionable. And that to us is what determined what good data would mean.


Kissel:

It sounds like almost having that plan in your mind of what are you going to do the data, Kearey, go ahead.


Smith:

No problem. I think both of the points that my fellow panelists raised are really excellent points, but I think I'm going to pivot and, and speak of this sort of from a regional policy perspective. At a regional level, policymakers are really interested in making sure that, the decisions that they make are evidence backed. And for us, a lot of our decisions are based on local decisions that are made at a local level where that data and information is not always readily available to us. And so for us, it's about building tools and applications that help build a framework of data and understanding about what's on the ground right now. And those policy decisions that are linked to those locations for changes in growth, going forward into the future. We tried to build tools that let us collect information from local jurisdictions.


Like Gabe was saying, getting feedback from local jurisdictions was really an important part of that process. So this application, which I mentioned earlier BASIS, and by the way, can you guys see my screen? Okay. Okay, cool. Thank you. I made a mistake earlier today. This site is really intended to help us collect local data, model that information into a framework that both the local jurisdiction and the regional agency, both agree, manage that information, collect feedback from local jurisdictions. And they report that information out through trends and analysis tools and projects like Vital Signs and others. So this established a framework for us to help us make better decisions as we move into these more complicated spaces like housing. And so, as I mentioned earlier, jurisdiction review is a really important part of this process, getting their feedback and information and helping get the ground-data so what we say about their jurisdiction is important. Making sure that information is well documented and organized so that folks, when they have questions about it can come to it later on and get more information about it. And, you know, the tool allows us to have an inventory of all the information that we use in the region, and we can share it and let local jurisdictions as well as the public use that information again, to help make better decisions. So the idea is let's collect the information from a local jurisdiction at a regional perspective, put it out there for folks to use so that others are making and using that same common information to make data-driven decisions.


Kissel:

That's awesome. Thanks for sharing that, Kearey. I really liked that term ground data. I feel like I'm going to be using that more often. So we briefly touched on, or I guess I want to more deeply discuss data collection. We were talking a little bit about that with the feedback loops and talking with the end users. So again, if there's anything else to add for everyone, how should we be collecting data and presenting it? And why is being intentional about this data collection so important?


Smith:

I can jump on that one first. So I think it all starts with gathering your requirements and understanding your audience and making sure that everybody agrees with those assumptions that you're making for that project. Sometimes projects can get started and all the questions aren't necessarily out there for it to be answered, and so the project can kind of spin and go in different directions, especially when you're trying to collect data about something that you might not fully understand. So it was really important to gather those requirements, share them with others, both, if it is a public and private sort of a relationship, make sure that you have input from both of those groups and then be prepared to share it so that everyone can participate, I think that's really important. So establishing and understanding the requirements, document that information so that others can see it and review it, and  I think just starting there, I think it's a great first step.


Roeder:

Yeah. I'll jump in and say, I think you're right, Kearey. I think it's coming to agreement about what you're doing or what you're gathering and what you're going to do with it. I think is really important in a community sense. You know, I don't know why this pops in my head, but an acquaintance of mine was recently kind of giving me a dig at an event a month ago about how expensive affordable housing is to develop versus private housing, like per unit. And I said yeah,  democracy is expensive.


And apparently we, the alternative is closer than we'd like. So, you know, I think when we're talking about data like housing or transportation, things that are core to our communities, I do think it's really important that we have this conversation about what, okay, what are we collecting? And, you know, there are folks, there are people in my office on the community development side of the shop, and I appreciate their sensitivity about this, that would say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. I know what you're trying to do with those numbers.” You know, there's a fear of numbers and there's a fear of data and you're trying to spin up something and I might, and maybe they wouldn't say this, but maybe they don't completely understand what's going on. And I don't know what you're up to here and what are you? So I think, I think it really is important to have this conversation. And part of that, of course, there's some obvious things like, well,  what data do we even choose to share with each other? I know that's a sensitivity in my jurisdiction. If we're talking about sort of regional processes and data, like, well, “Wait a minute, if I share my stuff out there, I have to be careful the stories that people spin around my data and don't, I have to be like ‘this’  with my data.” So I think Kearey’s right; sort of a foundation of, okay, let's hang on guys. Just it's all. Okay. Let's just breathe. Here's what we're trying to do. And, and how does it sound to you let's have some agreements about it.


Doss:

Yeah, Barry I feel like you hit the nail on the head, you know, really talking about the fear around data that, that we experience; people aren't just going to hand this over. And, to be clear, this isn't data that always exists at the agency level or at the city or state level, a lot of times we are asking questions or for a level of granularity that just has not been explored before. And so there's a little bit of pride in that, okay, this is good work, but it's also an extremely manual and hands-on process and you have to actively seek out this data and a big part of that is the relationship building. And so, you know, it's important to bring property management companies, developers, all the folks who can influence this data, sort of all they're coming on this journey with you, right.


They have to be bought in that feedback loop that we talked about earlier, but also, you know, champions in this space, right? Who can be the first to provide some of this data and then spread that message across the community, oftentimes to some of their competitors, and say things like, “Hey, you know, this project is, is, is worth your time? They aren't taking this data and spinning it.” And that way they are a part of that narrative. They aren't necessarily looking from the other side and what you're going to do with that data, but, in fact, they're influencing what data is going to be valuable to the project and even the method by which it's collected. And that I think has been helpful in getting that initial buy-in and actually getting the data you're asking for.


Smith:

Yeah. I think one quick other point to make on this one. I think when we're collecting data, I think it's really important to offer technical assistance to the folks who you're collecting information from. Like, sometimes you want to give something to get something, and figuring out what that partnership is, where that balance of partnership is so that both groups can find some success, I think is really important. Oftentimes I think it's a conversation that doesn't happen when you start data collection efforts. You're really focused about you, you know, what your needs are. I think you really should be thinking about what their needs are as well, because I think at that point, if you start to understand what, in this case, in this model, I'm talking about a local jurisdiction perspective versus a regional agency perspective, there are needs that both groups have, and you can find what those commonality areas are. It really makes it easier to put projects up and then find, you know, greater acceptance for the results. I think that's what I, I found in work that we've implemented in our region


Kissel:

It's about building that trust, right? Because I think when you are the person that's the data collector, or just whomever you are, there's inherently that power dynamic because, you know, a lot of the times folks are being asked to give data and not really given that reason. So I think all of you really touch on the importance of building that trust, building that transparency and really bringing folks into the process. And Barry, you kind of touched on this previously, but you know, were really all saying the same thing in the fact that data is only as good as the numbers say when it's understood by everyone, presented correctly and then shared, and obviously affordable housing is a shared crisis across our country. So, you know, we obviously in here all know the benefits of sharing data and collaborating across jurisdictions rather than like keeping it to ourselves. You know? So if there are any, and anything else you can add to that, but also what are the barriers that kind of prevent us from sharing?


Roeder:

If I may just jump in and say, and I know my colleagues know this, but it's funny how some people don't even today understand that housing for example, is a regional problem. And maybe it's from the perspective of data, or maybe it's from the perspective of just, you know, “Hey, I, I'm a whatever jurisdiction I kinda got things that are kinda okay. Yeah, there's a problem, but you know what? It kind of works for me” And so again, I don't really want to play. I just want to be”. I think it's important to underscore we know so many people, there are probably people on the call as what we would refer to as bi-jurisdictional, so they live one place and work in another. And so if you're looking for housing, it’s not just “Hey, I'm open to wherever.”

You know, for instance, the San Francisco portal, it's not designed to do more than San Francisco, but if somebody says, “Hey, can you tell me about Daly City, which is immediately to ourself or Emeryville?”, which is just across the bridge to the East. The answer is, “Oh, sorry, no, I don't know about that.” And okay, that's understood. But I mean, I think those are gaps that we want to bridge. And if we say, Hey, you know what, again, especially when we're trying to think of adding resources to this mix, one of the, what are the ways we need to do that we need to, we need to be talking with each other in a real way to solve these problems. And you're right, June, it does fall back on some of those things that we've mentioned on this call, you know, earlier, and, and what are the ways, so maybe to put it another way, there are some exciting things that are happening.

I'm really excited that Kearey and Gabriel, are all participating in a way in the expansion of the housing portal in the Bay Area. Exygy has been involved in the creation of what's called the Bloom code and Detroit is using it right now. And there was a regional effort to create a regional portal for jurisdictions that don't have one. And that would use similar code and that'd be housed at MTC. So it is sort of exciting to which we can say, wait a second. We are not in this for the money. And so, I mean, we're the public sector so we can share our code with you and we can sit down and try and work some of these things out. So I hope we take more of those opportunities.


Kissel:

Awesome. Anything to add Gabe or Kearey?


Smith:

Yeah. I have a lot to add. Sometimes I feel like I'm in conversation and I have great panelists,  so excuse me, if I jump on too quick and jump into this, but, I think just thinking of this question from a regional perspective, and just trying to understand, how you bring disparate groups together around a common shared problem when they all have local perspectives that can be different and distinctly different is a huge challenge. And when we think about data and how we describe it, and the point that Barry made about stopping at the jurisdiction edge, not crossing over, I think as a regional problem, I think is the reason why regional agencies exist to dive into the sort of issues. But often when you dig in too closely, it gets really messy and challenging. So I think building consensus at a regional and local level is really important that consensus really should be driven when we're talking about housing in particular, by data and what it says in what we think the data tells us in terms of where we're going in the future.


It's good to have a common framework. Again, I know I'm beating a dead horse when I talk about that, that's my focus. It's really about establishing that framework and then having buy-in and in our approaches to use tools primarily to support through technical assistance, local jurisdiction efforts had them looking at their data, but through our tools and give them a chance to update it and help us build better projects. So I think that's really important. So I think just really building a better call it data culture in the region and even amongst your colleagues and is really, really important.



Doss:

Yeah, I would agree with that, that the culture itself is good enough reason to do this, right? The activity of gaining, collecting this data, sharing it, like we learned cities grow and there's room for innovation, all of those things are important. Surprisingly or perhaps not surprisingly a lot of times in the private sector that is not motivation enough or public, right. Of being able to offer housing or share this information transparently with people who need it. It's not motivation enough. And we've been towed, you know, to our face as Google. This is great. But why like what, what incentive are you going to provide me to give you this data or to play ball? And, and, you know, we talked about good data earlier. Data freshness is also good data, right? We know what the speed at which things move in the space. And so being able to have real partners who have the level of buy-in and the structure that  we're talking about and can engage on that on a frequent basis, it requires carrots and sticks ultimately.


And so often we turn back to the city of Detroit and say, “Hey, you know, are there areas within, you know, our ordinances or our affordable housing agreements where we can motivate property managers to take some action?” And then, that's, that's more of a stick on the carrot side, it’s really like, how are we marketing this? What benefit do they get by having this proximity to the city? You know, perhaps it's access to greater information, perhaps it is this data sharing that can influence their business. But being able to call that out is really what we've found is, has been able to move us past some of these very apparent barriers where, you know, good will is not enough to move the needle.


Smith:

And just real quick to jump in on that one. It also is about investment too. Sometimes by having conversations around shared needs, investment in the resources that sometimes smaller jurisdictions really would not be able to afford to do. And so by figuring out what those share common responsibilities are, shared benefits in investing in that, at a scale that support multiple groups that can really move things along. And I think at the same time you're investing, you're also layering in a set of standards that folks can sort of think about it hearing too, when they collecting information so that it can be shared different jurisdictional boundaries. The way I collect information on affordable housing is this way, is a very defined way. And it's, this is how each category should be documented so that when you're doing analysis on trends and looking at things, going into the future,, you could use that information that everyone agreed on.


So I think that's something that's really important, and I know something that we often strive to do at a regional level. Some of the applications that we built we'll do things like collect jurisdiction level housing policies that are applied, and we show that information at a jurisdiction level, so that folks could actually see, okay,  this jurisdiction is using these set of housing policies, and this is the result. What if we tweak our policies a little bit and match theirs? So just being able to find this information in a regional scale easily, so local jurisdictions don't have to do a lot of research to figure out what their partners or, or neighbors are doing. Those are the areas that really move the needle, I think from a regional policy perspective, but also in helping again to achieve that what I consider the ultimate goal of having a single source of truth. It's a lofty goal, but it's an important one to state out loud.


Roeder:

So June, if I know we're going a little on the, with this question, but I want to carry, you know, you, you tip something for me. I use that phrase single source of truth, probably more often than I should in MOHCD one of my primary projects is the migration of decades of data from multiple divisions into the Salesforce instance instance that underpins the housing portal. So, you know, I'm glad that it's fixed now, but here's the truth six months ago, if you'd called one side of her house and asked for the number of units in a particular building, you get one number. And if you call the other side of the shop, you'd get a different number. Oh brother. So some, some of these challenges are not even at the point of like, well, how do we learn to work with each other as jurisdictions?


It's like, how do we find our way out the door? Like, you know, because we have different data systems and, you know, we haven't had the need or the resources or the technology or whatever it is in the public sector to create some of these structures. And you're so right. If it's like, if I'm talking apples and you're talking oranges, how are we possibly going to come to better and create, so there really is an infrastructure overhaul that's required even within ourselves, within our sort of working groups. I'm part of another group that's working to build service resource portals, a portal citywide and different departments have their way they categorize, all these processes that we have to sort of reconcile, but I'm hopeful that with more of us doing this work and every person on this call drops what you're doing and takes a job in this work.


Smith:

Yeah. It's definitely worth the investment,  I think in the long run. Those are  great comments Barry.


Kissel:

Yeah. And I think, again, Barry what you're talking about, even that getting through the door, I think sometimes feels silly that we have to go over it, but then I've oftentimes been in meetings and, you know, we're talking, someone's using one word for, you know, something else that someone uses another word, and then you get out of the meeting and you're like, I don't know. I don't even know what we talked about because we don't even have that consistent language to be speaking. So, especially when we're talking about that regional expansion and even a national expansion that is going to be something really important to invest in. So what we have only four more minutes until we get into the Q and A. So I'm going to ask to do maybe more of a lightning round of, what is one opportunity that you're really excited about as a means with data and building affordable housing solutions, whether that's maybe a tool, I know Kearey, you have to only pick one, whether that's, you know, a conversation what's getting up in the morning, what's really exciting for you?


Roeder:

Kearey do you want to go?


Smith:

I will go first. Actually, it's, it's more of a long-term thing that I'm really finding interesting. At the state level, there's actually a bill that was passed that the state needs to build a data strategy. I think it's Housing HCD is probably involved in, is building a statewide data strategy. And I think identifying very detailed specifics that data's collected at parcel level information. So right away, you're starting to get into this, okay, this is a lot of information. So we have to standardize to get somewhere. So I'm really excited about the idea that project, but I'm really cautiously optimistic about its success. So I want to get engaged involved in it and see where it goes, but just thinking about like trying to do this at a nine county scale is tremendously challenging; over 2 billion parcels and, and trying to understand all types of information about that parcel, not just as land use insight, specific characteristics, but what is the environmental constraints on that site? Is it in a flood plain ? That’s really detailed information. Is there a habitat zone around that, that parcel? So we're partnering with the state we're building applications that allow us to do that specifically around housing. I know this is a lightning round, so I'm going to stop now and pass it over to Gabe. 


Doss:

You're doing great. You know, for us, when we think about sort of scaling this, one of the biggest issues, or questions, concerns that's come up from property managers is how do we get reliable, real time data? And, where is there room for automation in this process? And that's been a big question mark for us as well, because particularly at a civic level, we haven't typically seen, the city partnering with a Rent Line or Real Page or any of these sort of Yardi, these major aggregators of property information, but in many ways, that is what our current mobile app based experience has generated is this sort of standard format that people are using to look for housing and sort of anything outside of that, not only sort of damages user trust, but frankly it can just be difficult to navigate.


And again, we're thinking about folks who perhaps have limited internet access, maybe have limited literacy. They need to be able to see this information in a digestible chunk. And so this was the first time that we thought, okay, you all have a point, and how can we begin to build those private-public partnerships, and you know, in some cases, private-private partnerships to make sure that we have data at scale. I think one thing we've also discovered is that, this takes quite a bit of money, as well as engineering expertise and effort to make something like this happen. So the way we've been looking about it in Detroit is starting in phases, with something that's largely a manual lift of collecting this data, trying to make sure that we're covering the landscape of regulated affordable housing in the city, then understanding how we can integrate automation and then comes conversations around what are ways to scale to unregulated affordable housing in a way that is safe and representative of the city and provides information that isn't a scam to a user? So other processes have to be put in place.


The last piece here, is sort of the danger, but also an opportunity with scope creep. And so we think about the homelessness sector and many folks are also looking for some form of affordable housing. How do we create a pathway for them to access the units that are reserved for the homeless and not necessarily cannibalize the affordable housing space, with them applying to units that they are not eligible for, and folks who would normally sit in that space, applying for homeless units. That's ultimately a UX question. It's how do we create the best user journey, no matter who that user is. So that's a much later phase for us, but I think particularly when we think about how data influences the growth of the platform, those are areas that we're exploring in detail.


Roeder:

Yeah. You know, I’ll slip in really quick. So when the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAFA) was created by the legislature and is now happily housed at MTC, they were given the authorization to create ballot initiatives. And one that was pushed back because of COVID, but will happen, hopefully in 2022, will be a general obligation bond for the creation of the generation of 10 billion with a B billion dollars in affordable housing revenues. That's very exciting. And I'm gonna borrow a little bit of an off-color comment from a colleague of mine who had started to refer to that as chum in the water. So, you know, the folks will say, “Wait a minute. Yeah,  I know last month, I didn't want to talk about data sharing and stuff, but if you've got time for coffee or something”. Hey, if whatever it takes for us to come together, so we'll say fingers crossed.


Smith:

Yeah, it was going to be difficult for me to choose just one thing,  June. That's what I was like ugh.


Kissel:

I know, I know all four of us could talk about this forever. Barry, what you're saying is something Gabe touched on, this kind of carrot and stick sort of phenomena that, for better or for worse is sort of where we're at as far as our society and needing to motivate. So, yes, thank you. Thank you all with all those questions. We do have time for one question that we received, which that question was: “So in all of this conversation, where does equity come into data collection and the use of data and just the goals of having data in general?” And if you need a second to think about it, too.


Smith:

Yeah, I think that's really an important question, and it's one that we're actually beginning to dig into as an organization. Equity is something that we're internally looking at linking to all of our programs and projects, even down to the scale of a project team level, asking questions around equity when we're starting those projects and having conversations like that. So it was a little bit of inculturation happening in our organization around that. But I think through our policies, identifying equity as a part of every project, including collecting data and how that information gets used is something that we consider to be really important. While we don't have standards or procedures specifically in place, we're asking those questions and beginning to formulate how that might look in terms of a program. But I definitely want to just say it is definitely something that should be considered and made part of your work, it’s just not in practice or always done because of the challenges of trying to figure out how to do it. So that's where we are at at least.


Doss:

Definitely. I think equity is a really broad goal and we've tried to touch on it in a few different ways. One is, you know, going back to our research and making sure that we are compensating folks who spend their time with us. And making sure that they have some motivation to come to the table, particularly our folks who are residents seeking affordable housing. So it felt really important for us to bring them into that fold and say, hey, we, aren't just going to sort of hold you captive and get your opinion on things, but also compensate you fairly for your time. And so that was one way that we thought about bringing equity into the space. And again, you know, accessibility was a big goal of our project. And so ensuring that the site is translated into multiple languages, ensuring that it can be read coherently by a screen reader, ensuring that there are filters that look for accessible units or any of those features that a person with disability might be looking for were ways that we try to hit the mark there.


And it's hard, it's not an easy extension of a project, but I think removing that also takes away a level of richness from the work and minimizes the benefit. And so it was definitely well worth the time of effort.


Roeder:

Yeah, I appreciate it. I'm so glad that you brought this question up. In fact, if we ended this without talking about equity, I think we would have missed something really important. So, you know, the way that I've come to understand equity in the last few years of doing work on this at MOHCD and I'm so grateful for this is that I, some of you may have seen this, it's an analogy of sort; there’s a tall guy looking over the fence to watch the baseball game, and there's a shorter person who needs one milk crate to look over, and then somebody needs two milk crates. And so the idea is you give to people according to their need. And so put another way, you know, this country has from a racial perspective, of course, centuries, that’s alarming, centuries of ignorance.Let's just leave it there. 

And then in the recent conversation has been, well, everyone is equal, right? So we'll treat everyone equal. So it's like, well, but everyone, isn't equal, people need different things to be able to see over the fence. So I really love the fact that equity doesn't mean equality, that equity at this point now where we're saying, okay, what do people need? And I think that's an encouragement to really scrap the old models. It's not like for instance, from a translation perspective, I'm involved in a translation project, and this is an interesting, I hope helpful analogy, but it's not like, well, let's just develop all these materials in English and let's just figure out the right way to translate them. Well, we'll wait, wait a second. Well shouldn’t your content be different? Shouldn't your engagement with that community be different? Is it really the cookie cutter mold that you're just trying to morph into something okay, that kind of fits? So I think we need to think about that in all these contexts, certainly around affordable housing and certainly around data and certainly around community engagement. So, I'm so glad. Thank you for bringing up that question.


Smith:

Yeah. There's some examples of projects. I think AB617 is an air quality project that they're working on, where they take an approach where, collecting data at the local level at the community level was really important. So they designed their data collection system with some consultants support specifically around the concerns that were reported to them in community meetings. So their data collection tool was designed with local input and by doing it at such a very fine grain or local scale with the community advocates and community leaders were participating in those exercises really helped to inform how that information was collected and then what it was ultimately going to be used for. So I just thought I should highlight that project just real quickly, because I think it is an example of how the state can actually put projects or, you know, programs out there that are aimed at local concerns and equity. Of course, when you're thinking of air quality issues is really a concern.


Kissel:

Yeah. I think those are all great points that everyone's brought up, I think, right. Kearey, like to your point, making it intentional and not an afterthought. I think is incredibly important. That tool that you mentioned definitely highlights that. And I think also looking at equity from so many different lenses, you know, Gabe, you talked about accessibility, you know, everything in between. So all really great. I'm really happy that question was asked. It is 11:55. So we are going to be wrapping up. Thank you all so much for joining. I feel really lucky that I was able to moderate this conversation with, folks that really know what they're talking about and are crunching numbers that quite frankly I don't want to at this point. So thank you know, a number of questions, didn't get answered.  We've noted them and we'll follow up with an email with answers from our panelists to key questions.


And additionally, you know, feel free to directly contact our panel if it's okay with y'all, I'm sorry, I'm putting it on the spot. I was just going to post all of your LinkedIn so that people can continue this conversation. And there also is a survey that I had posted. So if you don't mind filling that out, it should only take two minutes. That'll really help us in the future create content that people are excited for. Jimmy, I am seeing your question for Kearey and only because this will kick us off right at noon, I'm going to allow, or for Kearey to take that question offline if that's okay with you, Kearey.


Smith:

That's fine. Thank you for reading it just now.

Kissel:

I'm currently copying and pasting as we speak, so we'll make sure to have it. And then I'm gonna put all of your LinkedIn profiles in the chat and that's all we have. Thank you all so much. And again, it was really such a pleasure to talk with you all and host this conversation. So thanks again, everyone have a good one. Thanks.


Roeder:

Thanks June, thanks to Exygy. Thanks to everybody. All your work. Thanks panelists. 


Smith:

Thank you, everyone. That was a great conversation and I really appreciate it. Have a good one. 


Doss:

Thank you. All take care.

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