2018 Champion City

Elk Grove, CA : 2018 Champion City

Making the Rental Housing Application Process Simple and Affordable

  • 171,059

  • Steve Ly

  • Directly Elected Mayor

    Type of Mayor
  • 2 years

    Length of Term
  • Inequality

    Issue Area

The Problem

Ninety-seven percent of the city’s low-income residents pay more than 30 percent of their income in housing and are even more burdened, when it comes time to move, by the high cost of rental applications and a disjointed process.

The Idea

The City of Elk Grove will create a universal standardized rental application process that matches applicants with homes for which they meet the landlord’s minimum requirements, such as salary and credit score, thus reducing the time, cost and effort needed to find housing.

What Steve Ly, Mayor of Elk Grove, CA is saying:

By improving the rental-application process, we could assist nearly 1,000 lower-income households in our city every year—and create a blueprint that could help countless others throughout the country.


Our Prototyping Journey

    Let's Go

  • Elk Grove will engage landlords, property managers, prospective renters and applicants to test a universal standardized rental application process. It will focus on the automated application process specifically for (but not limited to) low-income residents.

    Our idea will positively impact renters and landlords by cutting the time they spend on applications and the cost of applying and reviewing them.

    Sarah Bontrager, Housing and Public Services Manager
  • Ideas into action

  • What we're discovering through testing

    Originally, the Elk Grove team thought that their rental application system would do everything (such as creating the lease and taking payments). As they have moved through the testing process, they are getting a better understanding of their user’s needs, as well as understanding what’s viable. The team is focusing more on their core proposition: making a positive introduction between the landlord and the applicant, and ensuring the application process does this well.

    Ready…Set…Innovate! @BloombergDotOrg As one of 35 Champion Cities in the 2018 #MayorsChallenge, our team is applying the problem-solving approaches they’re learning to streamline the rental housing application process.

    11:01 AM - 2 Jul 2018   CityofElkGrove  

    Originally, the team focused on incentivizing landlords to take on tenants with bad history. But the incentives they prototyped didn’t quite land as expected. They found that although some incentives can help (for example, double deposits or eviction insurance), in other cases, they could have the reverse effect. Landlords placed importance on how people behaved when they came to the property - noticing, for example, whether they wiped their feet. It has emerged that the project may benefit by incorporating support for tenants on how to present themselves.

    The idea started as this big, hairy thing, but it’s on a leash now and it’s tamed a little bit. Next we get it to walk, then run, then do some tricks.

    Christopher Jordan, Assistant to the City Manager

    Innovation is the way of the future for cities! Elk Grove is working to make finding a home one step easier. For more info: http://mayorschallenge101.azurewebsites.net/ideas/elk-grove/ … #innovation #mayorschallenge @SHRAhousing @BloombergCities @BloombergDotOrg

    3:29 PM - 17 Jul 2018   CityofElkGrove  
  • Reflections

  • What we've learned

    After successfully improving their idea through the test and learn approach, the city has since set up a new department for Strategic Planning and Innovation within the City Manager’s office. The purpose of the new department is to take the lessons from the Mayor’s Challenge and exponentially spread the skill set throughout the organization. Christopher Jordan, a core team member who started the project as an assistant to the City Manager, has been named director of the department.

    Innovation is the way of the future for cities! Elk Grove is working to make finding a home one step easier. For more info: http://mayorschallenge101.azurewebsites.net/ideas/elk-grove/ … #innovation #mayorschallenge @SHRAhousing @BloombergDotOrg @BloombergCities

    11:01 AM - 23 Jul 2018   CityofElkGrove  

    Elk Grove will develop an online rental portal targeted towards low-income and credit-challenged renters. Through testing, Elk Grove's idea shifted away from offering landlord incentives, and towards providing educational resources for renters.