Built by Exygy using Bloom Housing, the new Alameda County Affordable Housing portal provides all residents throughout the county - from Fremont to Berkeley to Pleasanton - access to housing-related services and digital affordable housing applications - all in a one-stop-shop online portal.
Alameda County - the 20th largest county in the U.S. by population- is one of the most diverse regions in America. With a diversity index of over 75%, the county’s borders include multicultural hubs like Berkeley and Oakland. Rising housing prices and displacement pressures, however, are changing those demographics every single year.
Alameda County, once an affordable option for families displaced by gentrifying neighborhoods in San Francisco, has now felt similar displacement pressures. Increasing rents and housing pressures have pushed many households and individuals further east or outside the Bay Area altogether.
For example, renters in Alameda County will need to earn almost $48/hour, over three times the minimum wage in Oakland, to afford the average monthly asking rent of $2,491.
In cities like Oakland, where the production of above moderate-income homes has far outpaced the production of very low-, low- and moderate-income homes, apartment rents and displacement pressures are significant issues for low-income renters. This has led to an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the county every year since 2016.Alameda County has responded to an increase in housing production and preservation of existing affordable homes - especially from 2018-2020. With yearly averages of over 1,000 new affordable and acquisition/rehab homes opening up to residents in those years, before dropping to just over 500 homes in 2021, the County of Alameda reached out to Exygy to replicate the successful affordable housing portal we created in San Francisco to be implemented in the county’s 14 cities and unincorporated neighborhoods.
Throughout the county, affordable housing opportunities are being built by nonprofit developers like Eden Housing and SAHA while market-rate developers like Greystar are building inclusionary housing units. Prior to the County of Alameda launching its affordable housing portal, in partnership with Exygy’s Bloom Housing, the application process was cumbersome and time-consuming. Applicants would have to search for affordable housing opportunities as they become available, find each property manager’s online application or paper application, and submit an often lengthy application.
This process would typically take hours to complete - if applicants were even able to hear about opportunities - and include numerous websites and types of applications.
The County recognized that Bloom Housing could streamline the application process, and centralize housing resources on the county’s website. Additionally, it allowed them to implement their own unique programs and housing preferences. Housing preferences are adopted policies at the city or county level that prioritized certain populations - over the general pool of applications - based on certain criteria.
As housing preferences, needs, and policies change and differ across cities throughout Alameda County, the process of changing a bureaucratic and paper-based application is arduous, time-consuming, and can’t respond fast enough to the needs of the community, especially low-income renters looking for affordable housing. They brought in Exygy’s Bloom Housing platform to address all of these needs. We built an all-in-one online portal for affordable housing.
Our goal with Bloom Housing has always been to create a platform that can be scaled across jurisdictions to increase affordable housing access to as many Bay Area residents as possible.
Having already implemented Bloom Housing in other cities across the Bay Area, we were able to quickly and efficiently adapt our Bloom Housing portal to the needs of Alameda County.
Our short and replicable common application was already widely accepted in the Bay Area which made the final stakeholder approvals quick and seamless. In our initial testing, it took 9 months for the stakeholders to agree to the common application but by the time we approached stakeholders in Alameda County they were quick to sign off. All we needed was a handful of interviews with property managers and a workshop on their application processes. With this Bay Area-wide adoption, we are able to serve more people with greater ease and speed.
As a result, Bloom Housing’s common application is now used in more than half of the Bay Area jurisdictions.
We fundamentally believe that Bloom Housing has an immense opportunity to serve underserved communities looking for affordable housing. Not only do we believe that, but so do the numbers.
In 2021, the portal saw 13 listings with almost 400 affordable housing units.
Over 23,000 applications were received across the 13 properties with over 86,000 unique users visiting the portal
Of the total 150,000 total listing views, almost 50,000 started an application with almost 25,000 completing an application.
Due to its ease of use and accessibility - especially for non-English speaking users. 5% of site visitors switch to Chinese and almost 1% switch to Spanish
Exygy built the portal to be equally usable on mobile devices and tablets since the vast majority of users searching and applying for affordable homes do so on mobile phones.
In addition to helping applicants easily apply for available affordable housing, the data that the portal helps collect - especially demographic data from the applicants - is what will eventually be used to inform housing policy moving forward. Never before has this level of data been collected, especially from low-income households and their housing interests ( i.e. number of bedrooms, neighborhood choice, income, AMI information, and more). Through collecting and analyzing this data (see below) policymakers, housing advocates, and Bloom Housing will be able to better understand and better serve affordable housing seekers.
Exygy has intentionally built Bloom Housing so that it is easily adaptable to the changing needs of a population that is facing the burden of high rents and limited options. Bloom Housing is not a static portal and we hope to use these statistics and other insights to respond to the ever-changing needs of the housing landscape.