Wichita Guides ARPA Spend on Affordable Housing with Public Participation
As a growing city torn between holding onto tradition and increasing its younger population, Wichita, KS wanted to ensure it utilized public participation to gather input from a wider breadth of residents when launching its Affordable Housing Fund, bolstered by ARPA funding.
Operational since 2022
Wichita was seeking public input to guide its Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) spending, but consistently heard from the same cohort of people when collecting community feedback.
At a population of about 400,000, Wichita, Kansas is large and ever-growing. As a result, it faces tension between maintaining its traditional culture while also attracting younger generations. Faced with increasing rent prices, a household would have to work up to 118 hours a week on minimum wage to afford average rent in the city.
This has pushed Wichita to address its own housing issues. Capitalizing on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the city started its own Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) - $5 million designated to improving the quality of the existing affordable housing stock while expanding quality affordable housing options and promoting stability in key areas. The city evaluated how far $5 million could go, but wanted resident input before making the final call.
Unfortunately, when the city has done community engagement efforts in the past, they have heard from the same cohort repeatedly, leaving them with results unrepresentative of the city at large. Wichita needed a new solution to ensure that they received representative input about what community members wanted to keep their home affordable and vibrant.
Wichita utilized a public participation platform to hear directly from residents on affordable housing needs in their community.
Working with Withcita, Citizenlab was able to create a project, within their platform Forum, dedicated specifically to affordable housing. Before they began collecting feedback, the city shared essential background information on the Affordable Housing Fund and broke it down into four main stages, each of which citizens were able to contribute:
- Comment/idea generation
- Analysis of resident contributions
- Develop final AHF proposal
- Council action and continuous project communication
The team used a hybrid approach with 15 in-person meetings and used Forum to guide the meetings and encourage residents to sign up for and actively participate in conversations. This outreach allowed citizens to provide ideas that helped the city understand what was important to their community as a whole - even if ideas were out of scope. Using Citizenlab's Insights tool and tags, the Wichita team analyzed and compiled resident feedback to create a report outlining how ideas made their way into their AHF proposal.
The project gathered 26 subscribers, giving the team "the opportunity to engage in dialogue with these residents, even providing them information related to other resources and city services," according to program coordinator, Logan Bradshaw. Many of these residents consistently return to the site, with an average of 3 visits per user!
While the AHF is in progress, Wichita's team is also using Forum to educate the public about next steps via video updates and resources. With 500 registered participants, Wichita will continue to use Forum to gather community feedback, ensuring their residents are heard on key initiatives.
Wichita can share project progress through video updates and resources, facilitating an extra layer of transparency between itself and its constituents
Results showed that home repair programming was a top priority, so Wichita made sure that AHF addressed home stabilization for existing low-to middle-income homeowners
Forum has become the centralized hub for trusted and up-to-date information, where involved citizens have an average of 3 visits - to check back on important project updates
Improved cross-departmental visibility and knowledge sharing which has brought together members all working towards community engagement
Forum has 500 registered participants, representing a large breadth of citizens from different districts with ages spanning from 20 to 89
Government Project Team
- Cory Buchta, Community Service Representative
- Naomi Shapiro, Communications Specialist
- Logan Bradshaw, Program Coordinator
Last UpdatedJul 19th, 2022