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Planning for Housing

Planning for housing affordability in your community is a process that involves the coordination and input of numerous stakeholder groups including local housing and economic development local government employees, elected officials, real estate professionals, service providers, housing advocates and the broader community. The process starts with an assessment of your community’s current and future housing needs, using both data analysis and public engagement. As clear housing needs emerge, your community can prioritize goals and explore policies and programs to achieve them.

Planning for housing will look a little different in every community based on the issues that emerge and the priorities in the community. In most cases, the process proves to be iterative with the need to revisit the data and engage the community and key stakeholders at multiple points throughout the process.

Explore the Data

An effective housing plan is developed with a comprehensive view towards local context, including key challenges, priorities and barriers that are likely to emerge in your community. Once local context has been established, a data-driven housing needs assessment can inform your community on which housing needs are not being met. Most communities begin the planning process with preexisting concerns and priorities regarding their housing market; data can help you to confirm, or reassess, these hypotheses.

Set Data-Informed Priorities

There are many different housing challenges and opportunities that a community can face; setting priorities based on both analysis and engagement can help communities focus limited time and resources into the solutions that meet local community priorities.

Explore Housing Policies & Programs

Communities can deploy a range of policies and programs to address housing needs and help build a healthy housing market. Determining the right ones to prioritize involves an iterative process of evaluating a policy or program’s alignment with your community’s housing goals, feasibility to implement and potential impact relative to the resources required to implement it.

Engage Your Community

Community engagement should occur throughout the planning process and on an ongoing basis throughout the policy design and implementation process. Community and stakeholder engagement around housing issues, priorities and interventions is crucial to developing a housing plan that addresses the needs of your community and that has the support to be adopted and implemented. There are opportunities for stakeholder and community engagement at every stage of the planning process, and giving stakeholders multiple opportunities and methods to provide input will help ensure that you are reaching a broad audience.

As you evaluate different engagement approaches, questions to consider include:

  • Who in the community do you aim to educate about the planning process and outcomes?
  • What materials should be generated to achieve this?
  • Who do you need to coordinate with to address existing challenges, such as State officials, County commissioners, transportation and traffic planners or neighborhood associations?
  • Who in the community has historically been left out of the housing planning process? Are there community members whose housing security has been negatively impacted by past plans or investments?
  • Who in the community will be engaged in setting housing priorities? What forms of outreach will you employ to receive their feedback?
  • How will you coordinate outreach and communication with and between various stakeholder groups?

Flyers and Mailers

Flyers and mailers can be used to direct residents towards a website or event where they can learn more information about planning for housing in their community. These are particularly helpful tools to reach residents who are less likely to be engaged online.

Public Meetings

Public meetings, when hosted at times and in locations that make them broadly accessible, can help residents feel more substantially engaged in the planning process. Public meetings can be structured as workshops to solicit input from residents on specific strategies or as information sessions in which residents hear about housing needs in their community and the options to address them. In either case, using both an online and in-person format will help make the meetings more broadly accessible.

Digital Resources

Digital engagement tools can be a helpful way to provide information to the public but will be limited by different demographic groups’ use of online tools. As a result, be careful not to rely only on digital tools and look for ways to engage members of the community who are not regular users. Online platforms like PublicInput, CoUrbanize, CitizenLab and others offer easy-to-use digital tools like simple landing pages for a planning project, email list sign-ups, text message campaigns and other digital tools to provide information to your community.

Advisory Committee

A local Housing Advisory Committee is an effective strategy for bringing together local housing experts, policy makers and community members to offer guidance and feedback on housing priorities and strategies for intervention. The Committee can be appointed by local elected officials or by local government staff and should include a socioeconomically and racially diverse range of housing providers, real estate professionals, those who are responsible for implementing local programs, and community members who are most impacted by housing issues, policies and programs.

Community Ambassadors

Community Ambassadors are trusted local leaders who can engage their communities and gather feedback in existing forums, such as neighborhood groups, churches, or community centers. Community Ambassadors can use materials such as short presentations, brochures, videos or emails to provide information to their networks and gather feedback.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are small group meetings with individuals of similar backgrounds or areas or expertise that can be used to facilitate group discussion on specific housing issues. Focus groups are helpful tools to hear from those who are most impacted by housing issues who may be less likely to participate in larger community meetings. These discussions can also be used to solicit input on specific housing programs or priorities from those who stand to benefit from increased accessing to affordable housing.

Individual Interviews

Individual interviews with housing developers, housing service providers, local leaders and local government staff involved in housing, economic development, budgeting and infrastructure are effective for gathering specific information about how the local housing system is operating and what barriers exist to addressing housing needs. Specific topics may include the effectiveness of the development review process, opportunities for securing local funding through the capital or operating budget, priority sites and neighborhoods for affordable housing development, the availability and efficacy of County, State or Federal programs, and others.