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Special Project

Special Project
From the 7th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

Increasing Information and Advocacy for Affordable Housing

Entered in Civic Engagement


The extraordinarily high cost of housing in the Bay Area disproportionately impacts communities of color. The statistical evidence shows that communities of color are far more likely to experience displacement and housing burden (housing costs exceed 30% of income). 


As a response to increasing housing anxiety, The Regional Housing Needs Allocation program (RHNA) and the Association of Bay Area Governments established local housing mandates for cities, towns, and counties. These allocations are divided based on income & affordability levels. While each jurisdiction is in various stages of adopting the RHNA goals, we hoped to show the general population where their local jurisdiction was in the push for affordable housing. 


There is a deep and immediate need to create a tool to build pressure and motivation for jurisdictions to build more housing. Housing Readiness Report is an affordable housing tool that provides Bay Area housing advocates, community members, and policymakers with data, resources, and tools to track, monitor, and engage in their cities’ housing plans and policies to ensure equitable outcomes.


We sought to build a digital platform that easily outlines critical information about jurisdictions’ plans against their RHNA goals, resources to create and advocate for robust and equitable housing plans and elevate public visibility of the tool so that it’s discovered and adopted.


Affordable housing is a universal issue that led us to also prioritize ensuring scalability. In the future, this will allow us to expand regional coverage & make it so that it can grow without excessive maintenance.


Strategy and Execution

Our process had three stages - user research, a week-long participatory design sprint, and design and build iterations based on rapid cycles of user feedback. 

From the outset, we knew that diligent research was vital to understanding the problem landscape and learning more about affordable housing. We spoke to Fellows from Partnership for the Bay’s Future (PBF), community-based organizations, and San Francisco Foundation staff who created an initial proof-of-concept. They informed us about their preexisting efforts to protect renters and affordable housing, how they leveraged data and tools in their work, their relationships with the jurisdictions they work with, problems they’re facing in their workflow, and resources they have access to that are critical to advocacy. We also spoke with local jurisdictions’ housing departments in order to understand their RHNA process, how they leveraged data in their workflow, and seek feedback about a tool that showcases jurisdiction progress on RHNA. By fully understanding the issues faced both by jurisdictions and advocacy, we sought to identify any gaps that needed addressing and to design a tool that would add value to organizations and individuals already involved in the conversation.


After we concluded the user interviews, we led a four-day participatory design sprint with the Exygy team, PBF fellows, community-based partners, and strategic partners. Through the design sprint, we further identified the needs of the community partners and the policymakers and ideated together what features we may need to build. The design sprint was crucial in helping us define the types of data our projected users most valued and how they measured success. We identified that a successful tool needed reliable local data, storytelling, racial equity, effective calls to action, and ease of use. 


We spent the next 4-5 weeks iterating on the design while also prototyping what was feasible on the technical side. We aggregated data from the Association of Bay Area Governments, and Bay Area Equity Atlas. We also worked with the client team on defining how we wanted to display the various indicators, and how we would calculate them. These included a diversity index, rent burden, affordable housing production, and adoption of housing policies. 


In the end, we developed a methodology not only for the 4 indicators above, but also for ranking the 11 bay area jurisdictions — divided into Gold, Silver, and Bronze tiers.  We also tell the story of how the various indicators we’re working with show which communities are hit the hardest by the housing crisis, and a specific jurisdiction’s progress in addressing its affordable housing shortage and reaching its RHNA goals. 


Building a platform that centers the needs of community stakeholders, citizens looking to be informed and get involved, and policymakers requires a deep understanding of the real needs that users have. Through our stakeholder-centric approach and a commitment to constant feedback and iterations, we created a platform that performs for the needs of numerous types of users and is embedded in the diverse experiences of people who access affordable housing in the Bay Area.


In July of 2022, the Housing Readiness Report was released for 11 of the Bay Area’s largest cities. The site clearly illustrates each city's ability to increase affordable housing for its most vulnerable populations. Any site visitor can easily find up-to-date data about a jurisdiction's diversity, rent burden, affordable housing production, and housing policies. For those just entering the conversation and looking to learn more, the site provides ample education regarding housing policy and clear avenues on how to advocate for more affordable housing throughout the Bay. 


From a technical standpoint, the tool was built to ensure scalability to expand across regions with minimal technical maintenance — opening the door for more impact in the future as jurisdictions outside of the Bay Area look to better understand their affordable housing landscape. We are also continually looking to add key features in the next phase to increase advocacy.


In order to elevate public visibility of the tool, PBF is leading trainings and workshops so that the Housing Readiness Report is discovered, relevant, and adopted by anyone who wants to learn more about the affordable housing crisis in the Bay Area, and who wants to actively help create more affordable housing.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Exygy, Partnership For The Bay's Future


Entry Credits