Implementing and Developing Processes with Stakeholders Towards a Common Application

Implementing and Developing Processes with Stakeholders Towards a Common Application

Jun 7, 2022

Successful collaboration is essential to implement a system like Bloom Housing. This case study details how Exygy helped Alameda County convene stakeholders across the region to create a common application for residents to use to apply for affordable housing.

Four people sit around a wooden table. The image is cropped so that just their hands and torsos are showing. They are holding papers.
Four people sit around a wooden table. The image is cropped so that just their hands and torsos are showing. They are holding papers.

The Problem

Typically, applications that precede the Bloom Housing application included sensitive information (Social Security numbers) and challenging information to attain (pay stubs and other income documents), making the affordable housing application process stressful and complicated for applicants, housing counselors, and property managers alike. Applications also vary from developer to developer. In the worst case, they are long and complicated paper-only forms that require an excessive amount of information up front, with a requirement to submit in-person during regular business hours. At best, they are a digital application that can be submitted online for opportunities available only to that jurisdiction or developer.

Applicants looking for housing are not always living, working, and playing in one city, as employment, schools, and entertainment may span city and county boundaries. Establishing a regional affordable housing portal, whether it's in one city, countywide, or region-wide — like the Bay Area — requires consensus-building and a process that scales. What works in one location may not be applicable in another.

The system's success is entirely tied to how beneficial the web portal is to those who work in the development of affordable housing opportunities, implement housing policies, and connect housing applicants to available homes, so there must be intentionality when creating and implementing a common application.

The Approach

To understand the needs of all stakeholders in each affordable housing ecosystem, Exygy supports local jurisdiction staff to develop a Steering Committee to convene stakeholders throughout the region to inform the web portal and advise the rollout of the system’s features. Stakeholders may include affordable housing developers, property managers, housing counselors, service providers, housing authorities, advocates, health service providers, and many more.

The role of the Steering Committee

  • Representing multiple perspectives and a diversity of voices.

  • Proactively inviting appropriate participants (stakeholders, end-users, etc.).

  • Constructively making decisions and contributing to meeting critical project deadlines.

  • Determining detailed timelines for the next steps within the project scope and vision.

  • Exploring options for how the housing portal will be maintained.

  • Guiding policy decisions.

  • Sharing joint accountability for project scope implementation. 

  • Sharing progress, findings, events, and questions back to constituents

Implementation of Policies and Procedures

There is also a need for a county to implement its policies and procedures or facilitate a process among its cities. One example of how this can be implemented is by simplifying language to ensure policies and terminology are accessible.

The affordable housing field is filled with jargon and naming systems that are jurisdiction-specific. Exygy helps jurisdictions speak the same language — or at least using the same jargon — by developing a Glossary of Affordable Housing Terminology. This glossary aligns all the jurisdictions we are working with to identify the standard terms with different names. Our glossary is a living document that we will revise and adapt to continue building the system — replicating and scaling — in the Bay Area and beyond. 

Link to Glossary

Confirmation page

During interviews with applicants who have applied for affordable housing in the past, many were unsure if they had ever fully submitted an application due to a lack of a confirmation page or follow-up email confirmation. Bloom Housing completes every application with a confirmation page that includes a unique confirmation number and language on “what to expect next.” 

Example of Confirmation Page

T‍he Impact

When affordable housing developers, property managers, and housing counselors see Bloom Housing's digital application for the first time, they appreciate the system's ease and simplicity. But the question remains: "Is this the application that every jurisdiction and housing authorities can use?". The secret to Bloom Housing's simple and accessible digital application is that it's based on a common short-form application that is developed by the very stakeholders who accept applications. 

It's a "common" application because it's the application that local jurisdictions, housing developers, and property managers have agreed to utilize; the fields in the application were developed through a series of stakeholder meetings to ensure it met every need.

It's a "short-form" application because it allows an applicant to provide the least amount of valuable information necessary to make it to the next step — whether that next step is a lottery, a waitlist, or keys to a home.

Short-form application for those without online access

Bloom Housing’s digital application provides consistency across multiple developers, jurisdictions, and affordable housing opportunities. Users can use the same application process for numerous housing opportunities, and can save some of their account information to continue using on other housing applications.

Final Application Fields

The agreed-upon fields for the application in Alameda County include: 

  • Name

  • Date of birth

  • Phone number 

  • Email

  • Gross household income

  • Alternate contact information: name, email, phone, relationship

  • Tenant-based Housing Vouchers

  • Subsidies

  • Reasonable accommodations

  • ADA accessibility

  • Preferences

  • Household size

  • Bedroom Size Preference

For survey purposes, the common short-form application also includes the following optional questions: 

  • Gender

  • Race

  • Ethnicity

Supplemental Application

Additional information that requires more documentation gathering is now reserved for the supplemental application, so only for applicants that have been selected for a particular affordable housing listing, which is usually a much smaller number than the number of original applicants. The supplemental long-form application may include the following information:

  • Social Security Number

  • Income eligibility information, including:

  • Paystubs

  • Unemployment

  • Child Support 

  • Alimony

  • Financial Aid

The prioritization of information required from applicants speeds up the application process and allows housing seekers to break up the process in bite-size phases and reduce submission friction.

Example of Common Application Process for Affordable Housing Applicants


Status Bar

Applications include a status bar that allows an applicant to see their progress in completing the application. 


Red, yellow, and green lights

Submitting a paper application for an affordable housing opportunity is limiting. Any error, such as not selecting a correct, eligible housing preference, may hurt an applicant’s chances of qualifying for a home. The digital application provides prompts that guide an applicant through the process. A “yellow light” reminds them they need to be over 18 years old to apply for housing. In other situations, it can warn an applicant early on that they do not qualify for a particular housing opportunity. An age requirement in a senior community may display a “red light” that ends the application. The prompts save both the applicant’s time and the property manager’s time in situations where an applicant does not meet a community’s criteria (senior, veteran, or transition-age youth housing are examples). 


Example of a "Yellow Light" Reminder

Language accessibility

Applications are translated into a jurisdiction’s most spoken languages. They can be toggled on and off, allowing a non-native English speaker to work with an English language housing counselor while applying for a unit. 

Example of Translated Application

The overall effectiveness of Bloom Housing’s digital application can be seen by the percentage of users who submitted an application for a recent housing opportunity in Alameda County:

  • 22% of users who view a listing ultimately submit an application

  • 41% of users who start a digital application ultimately submit an application

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Exygy

Bloom is a product from Exygy. We partner with social impact organizations to design and build technology that improves lives.

Copyright ©2023. Exygy Inc.

Exygy

Bloom is a product from Exygy. We partner with social impact organizations to design and build technology that improves lives.

Copyright ©2023. Exygy Inc.

Exygy

Bloom is a product from Exygy. We partner with social impact organizations to design and build technology that improves lives.

Copyright ©2023. Exygy Inc.