For communities throughout California, the question of how to meet affordable housing needs is a perennial challenge. And the pandemic has heightened tensions around landlords and tenants. Through our work with Home for All and cities throughout San Mateo County, Common Knowledge has pioneered an approach that invites community members to share their hopes, values, ideas, and concerns before housing decisions are made.

This approach to listening and learning is currently underway in Redwood City, where City staff are developing the community’s first Anti-Displacement Strategic Plan. Drawing on recent engagement with renters and landlords, the plan seeks to protect and preserve affordable housing. As part of the plan’s development, Common Knowledge has been supporting Redwood City’s efforts to engage community members on rental housing policies passed in 2018.

Through a series of interviews and two community meetings, we brought together local property owners, landlords, realtors, and rental housing advocates to better understand their perspectives on the community’s housing needs. City staff provided updates about recent changes to state housing law and potential changes to local policies. Topics discussed included minimum lease terms, relocation assistance, experiences with terminating tenancies, and ongoing efforts to provide pandemic rental assistance to landlords and tenants.

City staff were also joined by Mayor Diane Howard and members of the City’s Housing and Human Concerns Committee, who served as small-group facilitators. As Redwood City’s housing leadership moves to complete plan development this fall, our work has helped to reduce misperceptions and open lines of communication. We look forward to following Redwood City’s efforts and seeing how the City’s Anti-Displacement Strategic Plan can serve as a model for other cities.