The Housing Readiness Report community trainings connect affordable housing advocates with data, resources, and tools to track, monitor, and engage in their city’s housing plans and policies throughout the Bay Area to ensure equitable racial and economic outcomes.
The Partnership for the Bay’s Future (PBF) is on a mission to protect people living in affordable housing and to create more affordable housing opportunities across the entire Bay Area.
In 2022 PBF partnered with Exygy to create the Housing Readiness Report, a new tool to help solve the Bay Area’s housing crisis. With this new tool in hand, they asked Exygy to help lead and organize community trainings to demonstrate how to use the website, increase awareness and advocacy, and collect valuable feedback for the next phase of the tool’s development.
Every eight years, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) plans for the future of housing across the state. The plans start with the development of Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goals – a set number of new homes and how affordable those homes need to be – that regions must build in order to meet local housing needs of people at all income levels.
Once the regional RHNA goals are set, each region’s “council of governments” (in the Bay Area, this is the Association of Bay Area Governments) allocates the housing needs amongst all cities and counties within the region. If cities and counties don’t meet these housing goals, they will not receive certain types of state funding. Designed to increase transparency within Bay Area jurisdictions for meeting the RHNA housing goals, the Housing Readiness Report (HRR) provides critical information about the efforts that cities are making to provide affordable housing. The tool is intended to equip policymakers, housing advocates, and community members with easy-to-read key housing indicators such as rent burden (tenants who contribute more than 30% of their gross income on housing), measuring diversity, housing policies implemented, and progress of building affordable housing. HRR also collected trusted resources from across the Bay Area and assembled them in a way to make it easy for community members to get involved in their city’s housing plans.
With 11 cities included in the initial release (including the Bay Area’s largest cities), the Housing Readiness Report is designed to provide ample opportunities to learn about and get involved with cities’ housing plans. These local housing plans are called Housing Elements, which by law must include community input. In this critical time frame before a final draft of cities’ Housing Elements must be turned into the state, there needs to be an extra avenue for organizing community support and feedback. Enter the Housing Readiness Community Training.
"From the beginning, PBF’s partnership with Exygy in developing this tool and the trainings has been exceptional. The incredible participation from the community we had at the trainings far exceeded my expectations".
Involving Community Voices in Planning Bay Area Affordable Housing
We timed the release of the Housing Readiness Report during this Housing Elements process to involve community members and ensure their voices were heard. As part of the tool’s release, PBF asked Exygy to partner in hosting multiple trainings for community members, government officials, and community organizations in preparation for community input period of the Housing Elements process.
In the fall of 2022, we hosted four virtual training sessions centered around the Housing Readiness Report. The first training, hosted just after the release of the site, walked participants through the website, provided additional context to the housing landscape in the Bay Area, and gave participants time to ask questions and engage with policy experts and advocates.
Closer to the deadline of the Housing Elements, Exygy and PBF co-hosted three consecutive days of trainings. Each day focused on one of the key groups in the affordable housing space: community organizations, community members, and government officials. These trainings built off the context and information provided in the first training but also provided more opportunity for participant engagement and feedback as we collected information for how to adapt the site after the release of Housing Elements. The virtual trainings were co-led by Jordan Shapiro of PBF and Ivy Teng Lei of Exygy. For those who couldn’t attend, the trainings were recorded and made accessible to the public.
Making Policy Information Easily Accessible and Actionable for the Public
It’s no secret that a lot of information about critical policies is hard for the average person to find, and the information that is accessible is often outdated. One of the key goals of our trainings was to hold space to explain the many acronyms, nuances, and timelines at play in the Bay Area’s affordable housing landscape. The main portion of time during the trainings was spent on how to understand the compiled data charts that compare stats like renter burden between jurisdictions, and how to efficiently use the “Get Involved” pages that are geared for both those working in affordable housing and community members who haven’t participated in housing advocacy. These trainings provided a chance for participants to ask questions in a welcoming environment, in order to break down the barriers that often prevent community members from participating in policy.
Leveraging the networks and reach of both PBF and Exygy, we were able to exceed the expected turnout as people from different backgrounds, levels of housing involvement, and cities across the Bay Area joined. Across the board, participants engaged with the content and provided salient feedback and comments during the Q&A portion of the trainings.
"It demonstrated that when you are able to build a tool like the Housing Readiness Report and then present it in a way like we did at the trainings, there is an eagerness from the community to get involved in equitable advocacy. These trainings fueled my excitement for the tool and its possibility in the future". - Jordan Shapiro, PBF
Our first Housing Readiness Report training was a resounding success. We had 64 people register for the training and 100+ registrants for the subsequent trainings, exceeding the outer limits of our projected count. When asked “On a scale of 1-5, 1 being not helpful, and 5 being very helpful, how helpful was this training to help you understand how to use this tool?” participants responded with an average of 4. In the near future, our team will be using the community feedback acquired from the trainings to inform the next iteration of the Housing Readiness Report tool.
Lastly, while Exygy has historically specialized in creating human-centered digital services, this project is an example of how our team is evolving to offer Growth as a service.
We are looking to not only design and build products, but also to ensure that the people they are intended to serve have opportunities to learn how to best use them. Our mission has always been to create technology that helps build healthy communities and this project exemplifies another step in that mission. By hosting community trainings, we are bridging the gap between creating technology and working directly with users to adopt the technology intended to meet their needs.