Addressing Community Concerns

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Authentic public engagement cannot only help quell some of these concerns, but it can create a number of additional benefits including:

  • Better identification of the public’s values, ideas and recommendations
  • More community buy-in and support for land use planning related activities
  • Improved decision making and better outcomes
  • Residents more informed about current housing issues and concerns
  • Faster entitlement process and housing project implementation with less need to revisit
  • More trust between local leadership and the community
  • Better understanding of the broader vision of the community

To achieve these benefits however, local governments must be intentional about the level of engagement they are looking for (what feedback they are seeking, what will be done with the feedback, and how they will report back to the community). The level of engagement is dependent on a number of factors including, goal of the engagement, timeline, budget, and staff capacity among others.

IAP2’s Public Participation Spectrum

The list below is based on the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) spectrum of public participation / public engagement. While the ‘inform’ part of the spectrum is often used with positive effect, local agencies are encouraged to move beyond a one-direction transfer of information. Instead, focus more on the parts of the spectrum with an increased level of public impact. Activities that fall into the ‘involve’, ‘collaborate’ and ‘empower’ side of the spectrum have a greater potential to create sustained public engagement capacity and community buy-in and support, especially when paired with meaningful considerations about equity. However, in the case of housing and land use decisions it may not be appropriate or feasible to turn decision-making authority over to your community. As discussed above it is important to decide what level of engagement you are seeking and communicate that to residents – this will help you manage the expectations of community members that participate in your engagement process.

1. Inform

Goal: To provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding housing planning challenges, opportunities and/or solutions.

Promise to the public: We will keep you informed.

Example techniques:

  • A webpage detailing housing planning efforts
  • A factsheet mailing to neighborhood residents about a specific planned housing project
  • An open house presentation by an agency department to a community group about housing needs

2. Consult

Goal: To obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or agency decisions.

Promise to the public: We will keep you informed, listen and acknowledge concerns and aspirations and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision.

Example techniques:

  • Community forums 
  • Surveys 
  • Focus groups
  • Typical city council/county board of supervisors hearings
  • A public meeting asking for individual opinions and recommendations about housing

3. Involve

Goal: To work directly with the community throughout the housing planning process to ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered.

Promise to the public: We will work with you to ensure that your concerns and aspirations are directly reflected in the housing planning process and provide feedback on how the public input influenced the decision.

Example techniques:

  • Workshops that include the community in all stages of a zoning or housing element update to ensure concerns and aspirations are understood and considered
  • Deliberative polling

4. Collaborate

Goal: To partner with the public in each aspect of the housing planning process, including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution.

Promise to the public: We will look to you for advice and innovation in formulating housing solutions and incorporate your advice and recommendations into the decisions to the maximum extent possible.

Example techniques:

  • Citizen advisory committees
  • Participatory decision-making 
  • Community conversations where participants discuss community priorities, confront real trade-offs and craft their collective recommendations
  • A representative group of residents who draw on community input and suggest housing planning ideas

5. Empower

Goal: To place final decision-making in the hands of the public.

Promise to the public: We will implement the housing plan/priorities you decide.

Example techniques:

  • Maximize community ownership, knowledge exchange and capacity building 
  • Citizen juries, ballots and delegated decision-making

Commands