Perhaps no other problem – other than the COVID-19 pandemic – has sparked as much debate and fear in the Bay Area as the housing crisis.
The most populous city in the region is therefore turning to a podcast in the hopes of educating more residents and unpacking the subject in a way that is more accessible and understandable than reading dense city reports and holding long meetings.
The new podcast called Dwellings, launched this month by the San Jose Housing Department, explains complex housing policies and suggestions, and informs residents of the work the agency is doing to reach out to the city’s homeless population and build more affordable housing .
And no time has been wasted wading into disputed waters.
To date, the department has aired two episodes of Dwellings – the first centered on the Santa Clara County’s Community Plan to End Homelessness, and the second, released this week, focused on the controversial concept San Jose called “Opportunity Housing “Would change the city’s zone code to allow duplex, triplex, or fourplex homes on a single family property.
In San Jose, 94% of the city’s residential area is reserved for single-family homes and bans apartment buildings. Opportunity Housing would effectively wipe out the city charter and the typical restrictions of traditional one-family zones.
The cities of Minneapolis and Portland, as well as the state of Oregon, recently passed regulations that remove traditional zoning of single-family homes. Sacramento, Berkeley and Tacoma, Washington are considering similar plans.
While proponents of residential real estate across California see densification of single-family neighborhoods as a promising way to increase the “missing middle” housing stock for middle-income people, many homeowners fear that zoning will lower property values, cause parking bottlenecks, and widening overall Knocking would lead to their quality of life and neighborhood character.
Some San Jose residents recently formed a grassroots organization called Families and Homes San Jose to express their opposition to the proposed zoning changes.
On this week’s episode of Dwellings, podcast host Alli Rico spoke to Michael Lane, state policy director for SPUR nonprofit and a resident of South San Jose, about housing options.
They discussed how single-family home zoning has maintained the exclusion of low-income and colored people from certain neighborhoods over time, how organizations like SPUR are trying to provide a more historical context for single-family neighborhood zoning, and what government officials and lawyers can do do to change the conversation around an opportunity that hosts a “more positive” one.
Despite the controversial subject of the second episode of the podcast, Rico, who also works as a content specialist with the city’s housing administration, hopes that residents who speak out against casual accommodations “won’t feel offended by the episode.”
The show, she said, aims to make it easier for residents to learn about homelessness and housing issues in their communities and feel empowered to get involved.
“Housing is a pretty big issue nationally in the Bay Area, but it’s also very complicated and sometimes definitely not that easy to understand,” said Rico. “So we really wanted to create something that would give residents information a little easier to digest than reading a council memo.”
Lee Clark’s experience on the street gives him the expertise needed to help nonprofits like @DSTNHome help out with detained residents.
The first episode of Dwellings is now available on our website and everywhere you listen to podcasts! https://t.co/sC4gCyQiwI pic.twitter.com/dfkUcbvIl3
– San José Housing Dept. @ (@sjcityhousing) February 16, 2021
At the end of each episode, Rico said her goal was to make residents “feel a little stronger”.
“We hope they can finish the episode and walk away and say, ‘I’m going to listen to a city council meeting and contribute,” she said.
The first season of the podcast runs through April 1st. New episodes are released every Thursday. In each episode, discussions are held with experts from local non-profit organizations and staff from the city’s housing department.
Jennifer Loving, CEO of the nonprofit housing company Destination: Home, was featured in episode one with Lee Clark, a formerly unhodged resident who is now helping nonprofits like Destination: Home reach out to the city’s homeless.
Loving, who has worked as a South Bay housing advocate for years, said residents are constantly calling on the city to resolve its crisis of homelessness and housing affordability, but when projects are proposed around them, “they fight with all your will to stop. “She hopes that further training, for example through the city’s new podcast” Wohnen “, could help reverse this trend.
“Hopefully this podcast will allow different opinions and perspectives on what the right solutions will be,” Loving said in an interview. “And for the people who are listening, it might be possible to focus on the facts.”
This isn’t the City of San Jose’s first podcast. The city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services released a podcast this summer called “A Walk in the Park” to help residents learn about what was going on behind the scenes and in the city’s parks during the COVID-19 pandemic to inform. Five episodes of the podcast were released during the summer and fall.
HOW TO LISTEN
Listeners can find both Dwellings and A Walk in the Park on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or other podcast streaming apps.