The first iteration of the Regional Early Action Program (REAP) provided funding for the councils of governments (COGs) responsible for developing the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) to accelerate and support housing planning. It was the regional counterpart to the Local Early Action Program (LEAP), which were distributed directly to cities and counties. While most REAP funds will also be distributed to cities and counties, they will be done so in a way that is consistent with regional sustainable community strategies.
But COGs are also using some of the resources to develop region wide technical assistance. COGs commonly pool local resources to develop technical assistance for their member cities and counties. Here, which we plagiarize (with permission) from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to provide an example of how these funds are being applied to further housing policies. While LEAP funds went directly to local governments, which allocated directly to cities and counties.
Looking back over the first year of ABAG’s Regional Housing Technical Assistance (RHTA) Program, the program has accomplished much to help jurisdictions prepare to submit their updated 6th Cycle Housing Elements.
Since the project launched, ABAG has run 19 live, interactive webinars for about 2,000 attendees from Bay Area jurisdictions focused on updating their Housing Elements. ABAG has built a robust website, including launching a Technical Assistance Portal, an easily-searchable collection of resources for government staff.
ABAG has also launched seven county-based planning collaboratives to provide staff with resources and forums for discussion and provided services as varied as housing simulation tools, communications resources and numerous technical assistance products for elected officials and staff to use when doing outreach to their constituents.
- Creating the Housing Element Site Selection (HESS) tool. This tool identifies potential sites in all Bay Area cities and counties for Housing Element site inventories, and flags those that will likely require rezoning to be used under new state laws. The tool is being further enhanced this year with data related to promoting fair housing policies.
- Partnering with Balancing Act to develop an online public engagement housing simulation tool that helps residents visualize sites for housing development in their communities. Through this partnership, ABAG has been able to provide free access to 25 jurisdictions and negotiate a reduced-cost subscriptions for other Bay Area jurisdictions.
- Advancing research and resources to help jurisdictions understand how to meet state and federal requirements to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH).
- Convening work groups to discuss missing middle housing and wildfire resilience. The missing middle work group developed a tool to help jurisdictions understand the market potential for middle housing development. Several other groups will launch this year.
- Establishing a Regional Planning Bench and an online tool for procurement through City Innovate. The Bench and tool work together to streamline the contracting process for jurisdictions seeking to hire consultants for various parts of their Housing Element process.
- Providing 10 free licenses to Bay Area communities to pilot an innovative online tool that streamlines residential site plan review for applicants and planners. Licenses to the Plancheck Program software were provided in partnership with Symbium.
- Producing a suite of resources in partnership with Goldfarb & Lipman LLP to help staff and elected officials communicate about CA Senate Bill 9 — Ministerial Urban Lot Splits & Two-Unit Developments — with their colleagues and constituents. These documents include a legal summary, template staff reports/presentations, and a model ordinance. Additional products will be available over the next few months.
- Creating a communications tool kit, including content and images for a social media campaign, a survey for jurisdictions to assess resident sentiment around housing, and information for elected officials to use in discussing housing with community members. Several items of the tool kit, as well as the webinar “How to Talk About Housing – Data-Driven Lessons on Housing Communications that Work and Those that Backfire” are available, and more will be released in the coming weeks.
- Developing best practices for engagement with multilingual audiences, launching a process for helping jurisdictions access translation and interpretation services, and providing jurisdictions with remote meeting tools during the “Engage How To! Introduction to Remote Meeting Tools” webinar.