Bay Area residents are learning about the housing element update process via a Regional Housing Technical Assistance (RHTA)-funded simulation tool. The complexity of the housing element update process makes it difficult for residents to understand, let alone participate in the update process. And remote public engagement presents additional challenges that were not part of pre-pandemic updates.
To make this process easier, the ABAG contracted with Balancing Act to develop an online public engagement housing simulation. This tool helps residents visualize sites for potential zoning changes and housing development in their communities.
To date, eight jurisdictions have launched their housing simulation websites and five more will launch soon. Jurisdictions whose sites are live are seeing great participation with residents using the simulations to learn about the Housing Element process and propose zoning changes. Users spend an average of six minutes using the tool to – six times the national average of website users. In most jurisdictions, more than 50 people have participated so far, and the sites have only been live for a few weeks.
The RHTA program provided free licenses for several communities and negotiated a reduced-cost subscription for others. Conversations with staff using Balancing Act identified the need to integrate the tool with other technical assistance offerings for more robust mapping capabilities. This is one of the many ways that the RHTA program works to assist jurisdictions with the housing element update.
More information about the assistance provide to cities, towns and counties is available on the RHTA webpages. Click here to view more about RHTA.