FAQ

What is Bloom?

It’s no secret that the country, especially California, is in the midst of a housing crisis: across the state, more than 40% of residents spend more than 30% of their income on shelter.  In 2015, we joined the City and County of San Francisco to create the Database of Affordable Housing, Listings, Information and Applications (DAHLIA). The portal, built on open source code, makes it easier to find and apply for affordable housing by streamlining the affordable housing experience for housing seekers and property owners - listing, applications, processing, and placement.

DAHLIA’s success demonstrated that our approach could be applied elsewhere. Since the initial launch, in partnership with a regional convening of affordable housing stakeholders, the system has been replicated in other jurisdictions,  and now covers more than half of residents in the San Francisco Bay Area, across the four largest counties. The resulting code, Bloom, is an open-source framework for building digital housing resources that are being adopted across cities and regions. Bloom represents Exygy’s sweet spot: scaling civic tech impact through a collaborative approach —and, in the process, transforming the delivery of an essential human service.

How was Bloom created?

Exygy utilized every tool in our toolkit - from skilled engineering to thoughtful product growth strategy - to develop the affordable housing portal in partnership with San Francisco. Moreover, the human impact of housing issues calls for an intentional process beyond the traditional startup model. We still created a minimum viable product while receiving critical stakeholder feedback and iterated based on what we learned—but we always stayed grounded in the knowledge that our work would shape critical opportunities for real people who needed affordable housing the most. To improve bedrock human services, a product has to incorporate service delivery across different organizations, consider every aspect of the user experience, and meet essential community-level outcomes.

How does Bloom improve the affordable housing application process?

Affordable housing seekers have historically faced a number of challenges:

  • Finding available housing opportunities
  • Confusing eligibility guidelines
  • Lengthy paper applications
  • Different document requirements for each property
  • Requirements to apply in-person during work hours (often waiting in long lines)
  • Opaque post-application processes

Bloom makes finding and applying for affordable housing a 15-minute process, which can be done from a smartphone.  The process was designed around, and with regular testing and input from the housing applicant. Exygy tested versions of Bloom with non-native English speakers, homeless veterans, those who qualify for specific housing programs, and those who access the internet in different ways—for example, at the library, on specific mobile devices, or via their case manager. The aim was to create not only a useful product but a positive one, because as one developer put it, affordable housing seekers “deserve the same level of respect as people who can pay $6,000 a month.”

Imagine you’re a single parent with a full-time job looking for housing for your family, but you don’t know where to look.  Even if you happen to hear about an opportunity, it’s hard or impossible to get off work to pick up the paper application and return it in time to the developer. This is especially true if it’s a popular listing and requires you to wait in line. Complicating the current process more, each affordable housing opportunity requires its own distinct application and process, with limited follow-up information once an application is submitted. Bloom offers a single place to find it all, the ability to complete an application from wherever you are in 15 minutes, and guidance and transparent processes that let you know where you are and what comes next.

How does Bloom get us closer to an online one-stop shop for affordable housing programs, opportunities, and resources?

The hardest thing about affordable housing opportunities is finding them. Opportunities are generally siloed by developer/leasing agent, by type (i.e. housing or subsidy), program (inclusionary vs. tax-credit), agency (housing department or Housing Authority), and jurisdiction, among others. And related support services, like housing counseling, are often another search altogether.

Today, Bloom brings all housing department resources together in one place, and is targeting expansion into Housing Authority services. Additionally, in the Bay Area, Bloom is taking steps toward regional consolidation - creating one place for all agency-sponsored affordable housing.

How does Exygy work with local stakeholders?

Exygy works with diverse stakeholders such as jurisdiction staff, housing counselors, community-based organizations, housing developers (both affordable and market-rate), property managers to ensure our solutions are responsive to local policies and practices. To that end, our process includes the following:

  • Development and on-going facilitation of a steering committee that provides decision-making and feature recommendations
  • Interviews with housing developers and property managers to ensure the system meets all their listings and application requirements, including in the development of a common, short-form application
  • Coordination with jurisdiction staff to develop housing lottery policies
  • In partnership with regional stakeholders, convening across jurisdictions to develop a regional platform shared by neighboring cities/counties
  • Research and interviews to validate that materials (such as glossary, common application, presentation materials, etc) fit stakeholders’ needs 
  • Development of a sustainability plan (initially for the Bay Area) and outreach to funders that might support maintenance (and potentially initial start-up) of the system model for a regional affordable housing system for the region
How does Bloom help a jurisdiction implement local placement preferences?

Local housing placement preferences allow cities and counties to ensure that particular populations have priority over the general population to affordable housing opportunities. Preferences often include residence and/or employment in the jurisdiction, but others may prioritize previous displaced residents, first responders, or teachers.  Bloom can implement any potential preference that a city or county would like to implement, given availability of the data on which the preference is based, and can guide the applicant through the process of qualifying for the preference.

How does Bloom data help jurisdictions meet Fair Housing goals and inform policy decisions?

Bloom provides its sponsoring jurisdictions with demographic data on applicants, which allows agencies to ensure that housing placements are equitable. Through the online digital application process, property managers are provided enough information to select households for vacant units without providing any disaggregated demographic data that might unduly influence the tenant selection process, while still providing aggregated data for reporting requirements. 

Additional data, such as popularity of property listings with select features, such bedrooms counts, neighborhoods, and other items helps inform housing developers and policymakers.

What capacity do jurisdictions need in order to support and maintain Bloom?

The Bay Area agencies that have employed Bloom provide a few distinct examples of how the system can be managed. San Francisco, which first developed the web portal, currently maintains their system through staff. For jurisdictions that do not have the capacity or desire to do that, the Exygy team that builds your system can also maintain and support it. Another option, which the Bay Area is currently exploring, is developing a regional system with participating jurisdictions that are implementing Bloom, which will allow for multiple jurisdictions to share the costs of maintaining and supporting the current system, developing new features, and providing customer service to site users.

Why should a jurisdiction invest in a system like this, rather than use those funds to build more housing?

Building housing that those in need cannot find does not make sense. And all affordable housing advocates understand that equitable access to opportunity is important. Without a recognized, centralized place to find housing, it comes down to who you know and sheer luck. In addition, the data Bloom gathers helps improve the system overall. For example, the assumption that all affordable housing gets immediately filled is not accurate. Knowing exactly what is needed (i.e. 1-bedroom vs. 3-bedroom units), based on user responses to particular opportunities, helps jurisdictions make better investments in affordable housing, and advocate for more housing resources. Finally, it’s important not to overlook the benefits to housing seekers of a transparent system, which not only makes opportunities easier to find, but inspires confidence in the system overall.

How does Bloom improve the affordable housing application process for leasing agents and property managers?

The current workflow for leasing agents and property managers who are currently not using a digital system requires extensive and complicated spreadsheets to manage applicants. Not only does Bloom meet the needs of affordable housing seekers with an easy-to-navigate online web portal, but it also provides leasing agents and property managers with a new digital tool, the Partners Portal, to manage thousands of applications.

What are the results so far?

Since its launch in 2016, DAHLIA has led to the following results: 

  • 550,000+ online applications
  • 100+ households placed in affordable housing every month
  • 3.7 million site visitors
  • 1.1 million site users
  • 97% of applications completed online, in about 15 minutes, replacing an in-person/on-paper process that could take hours
How can I sign up to hear about updates to Bloom?

Please visit us at https://housing.exygy.com/ to hear the latest news, including case studies and feature updates, so you can learn more about how other cities and counties are implementing Bloom.

What are the long-term goals for the system in the Bay Area?

Working together on the digital portal has inspired exciting regional collaboration. Bay Area jurisdictions are working towards data sharing governance, Housing Authority collaboration, housing policy, and more. The regional collaboration between jurisdictions implementing the system, Doorway, is also exploring a partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments to potentially house a regional affordable housing web portal system with the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA).

How much did Bloom cost in the Bay Area?

Since the beginnings of the San Francisco DAHLIA Housing Portal in 2015, the Bay Area in aggregate has spent approximately $10 million on development and staffing costs, but because of the open source code, thoughtful design and the extensive work to date, implementing Bloom in new jurisdictions is an order of magnitude less complex and costly.

What is the difference between Bloom and existing search systems such as SMC Housing Search, 211 Alameda County?

Bloom is much more than a search site. It includes the following features that provide much more streamlined, user-friendly benefits for affordable housing seekers

  • User-friendly interface for clear, up-to-date information on active affordable housing opportunities
  • Clear household eligibility criteria so housing seekers can determine if their household should apply based on the opportunity’s requirements
  • Seamless digital common application process transforms the cumbersome paper application process into an online system that takes 15 minutes to complete
  • More robust data outputs that jurisdictions can utilize to help develop future housing policy (to influence future affordable housing type, size, location, etc) 
  • A separate site (Partners Portal) that lets affordable housing developers/property managers manage applications
How has Bloom empowered affordable housing seekers during the pandemic?

During the current public health emergency, San Francisco is still building affordable housing, exempting new construction with a percentage of affordable homes from recent orders that shut down other construction. Bloom allows contact-less housing search, application, lottery and post-lottery application processing.

What are the long-term goals for the system in the Bay Area?

Working together on the digital portal has inspired exciting regional collaboration. Bay Area jurisdictions are working towards data sharing governance, Housing Authority collaboration, housing policy, and more. The regional collaboration between jurisdictions implementing the system, Doorway, is also exploring a partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments to potentially house a regional affordable housing web portal system with the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA).

How much did Bloom cost in the Bay Area?

Since the beginnings of the San Francisco DAHLIA Housing Portal in 2015, the Bay Area in aggregate has spent approximately $10 million on development and staffing costs, but because of the open source code, thoughtful design and the extensive work to date, implementing Bloom in new jurisdictions is an order of magnitude less complex and costly.

What is the difference between Bloom and existing search systems such as SMC Housing Search, 211 Alameda County?

Bloom is much more than a search site. It includes the following features that provide much more streamlined, user-friendly benefits for affordable housing seekers

  • User-friendly interface for clear, up-to-date information on active affordable housing opportunities
  • Clear household eligibility criteria so housing seekers can determine if their household should apply based on the opportunity’s requirements
  • Seamless digital common application process transforms the cumbersome paper application process into an online system that takes 15 minutes to complete
  • More robust data outputs that jurisdictions can utilize to help develop future housing policy (to influence future affordable housing type, size, location, etc) 
  • A separate site (Partners Portal) that lets affordable housing developers/property managers manage applications
How has Bloom empowered affordable housing seekers during the pandemic?

During the current public health emergency, San Francisco is still building affordable housing, exempting new construction with a percentage of affordable homes from recent orders that shut down other construction. Bloom allows contact-less housing search, application, lottery and post-lottery application processing.

What is Bloom?

It’s no secret that the country, especially California, is in the midst of a housing crisis: across the state, more than 40% of residents spend more than 30% of their income on shelter.  In 2015, we joined the City and County of San Francisco to create the Database of Affordable Housing, Listings, Information and Applications (DAHLIA). The portal, built on open source code, makes it easier to find and apply for affordable housing by streamlining the affordable housing experience for housing seekers and property owners - listing, applications, processing, and placement.

DAHLIA’s success demonstrated that our approach could be applied elsewhere. Since the initial launch, in partnership with a regional convening of affordable housing stakeholders, the system has been replicated in other jurisdictions,  and now covers more than half of residents in the San Francisco Bay Area, across the four largest counties. The resulting code, Bloom, is an open-source framework for building digital housing resources that are being adopted across cities and regions. Bloom represents Exygy’s sweet spot: scaling civic tech impact through a collaborative approach —and, in the process, transforming the delivery of an essential human service.

How was Bloom created?

Exygy utilized every tool in our toolkit - from skilled engineering to thoughtful product growth strategy - to develop the affordable housing portal in partnership with San Francisco. Moreover, the human impact of housing issues calls for an intentional process beyond the traditional startup model. We still created a minimum viable product while receiving critical stakeholder feedback and iterated based on what we learned—but we always stayed grounded in the knowledge that our work would shape critical opportunities for real people who needed affordable housing the most. To improve bedrock human services, a product has to incorporate service delivery across different organizations, consider every aspect of the user experience, and meet essential community-level outcomes.

How does Bloom improve the affordable housing application process?

Affordable housing seekers have historically faced a number of challenges:

  • Finding available housing opportunities
  • Confusing eligibility guidelines
  • Lengthy paper applications
  • Different document requirements for each property
  • Requirements to apply in-person during work hours (often waiting in long lines)
  • Opaque post-application processes

Bloom makes finding and applying for affordable housing a 15-minute process, which can be done from a smartphone.  The process was designed around, and with regular testing and input from the housing applicant. Exygy tested versions of Bloom with non-native English speakers, homeless veterans, those who qualify for specific housing programs, and those who access the internet in different ways—for example, at the library, on specific mobile devices, or via their case manager. The aim was to create not only a useful product but a positive one, because as one developer put it, affordable housing seekers “deserve the same level of respect as people who can pay $6,000 a month.”

Imagine you’re a single parent with a full-time job looking for housing for your family, but you don’t know where to look.  Even if you happen to hear about an opportunity, it’s hard or impossible to get off work to pick up the paper application and return it in time to the developer. This is especially true if it’s a popular listing and requires you to wait in line. Complicating the current process more, each affordable housing opportunity requires its own distinct application and process, with limited follow-up information once an application is submitted. Bloom offers a single place to find it all, the ability to complete an application from wherever you are in 15 minutes, and guidance and transparent processes that let you know where you are and what comes next.

How does Bloom get us closer to an online one-stop shop for affordable housing programs, opportunities, and resources?

The hardest thing about affordable housing opportunities is finding them. Opportunities are generally siloed by developer/leasing agent, by type (i.e. housing or subsidy), program (inclusionary vs. tax-credit), agency (housing department or Housing Authority), and jurisdiction, among others. And related support services, like housing counseling, are often another search altogether.

Today, Bloom brings all housing department resources together in one place, and is targeting expansion into Housing Authority services. Additionally, in the Bay Area, Bloom is taking steps toward regional consolidation - creating one place for all agency-sponsored affordable housing.

How does Exygy work with local stakeholders?

Exygy works with diverse stakeholders such as jurisdiction staff, housing counselors, community-based organizations, housing developers (both affordable and market-rate), property managers to ensure our solutions are responsive to local policies and practices. To that end, our process includes the following:

  • Development and on-going facilitation of a steering committee that provides decision-making and feature recommendations
  • Interviews with housing developers and property managers to ensure the system meets all their listings and application requirements, including in the development of a common, short-form application
  • Coordination with jurisdiction staff to develop housing lottery policies
  • In partnership with regional stakeholders, convening across jurisdictions to develop a regional platform shared by neighboring cities/counties
  • Research and interviews to validate that materials (such as glossary, common application, presentation materials, etc) fit stakeholders’ needs 
  • Development of a sustainability plan (initially for the Bay Area) and outreach to funders that might support maintenance (and potentially initial start-up) of the system model for a regional affordable housing system for the region
How does Bloom help a jurisdiction implement local placement preferences?

Local housing placement preferences allow cities and counties to ensure that particular populations have priority over the general population to affordable housing opportunities. Preferences often include residence and/or employment in the jurisdiction, but others may prioritize previous displaced residents, first responders, or teachers.  Bloom can implement any potential preference that a city or county would like to implement, given availability of the data on which the preference is based, and can guide the applicant through the process of qualifying for the preference.

How does Bloom data help jurisdictions meet Fair Housing goals and inform policy decisions?

Bloom provides its sponsoring jurisdictions with demographic data on applicants, which allows agencies to ensure that housing placements are equitable. Through the online digital application process, property managers are provided enough information to select households for vacant units without providing any disaggregated demographic data that might unduly influence the tenant selection process, while still providing aggregated data for reporting requirements. 

Additional data, such as popularity of property listings with select features, such bedrooms counts, neighborhoods, and other items helps inform housing developers and policymakers.

What capacity do jurisdictions need in order to support and maintain Bloom?

The Bay Area agencies that have employed Bloom provide a few distinct examples of how the system can be managed. San Francisco, which first developed the web portal, currently maintains their system through staff. For jurisdictions that do not have the capacity or desire to do that, the Exygy team that builds your system can also maintain and support it. Another option, which the Bay Area is currently exploring, is developing a regional system with participating jurisdictions that are implementing Bloom, which will allow for multiple jurisdictions to share the costs of maintaining and supporting the current system, developing new features, and providing customer service to site users.

Why should a jurisdiction invest in a system like this, rather than use those funds to build more housing?

Building housing that those in need cannot find does not make sense. And all affordable housing advocates understand that equitable access to opportunity is important. Without a recognized, centralized place to find housing, it comes down to who you know and sheer luck. In addition, the data Bloom gathers helps improve the system overall. For example, the assumption that all affordable housing gets immediately filled is not accurate. Knowing exactly what is needed (i.e. 1-bedroom vs. 3-bedroom units), based on user responses to particular opportunities, helps jurisdictions make better investments in affordable housing, and advocate for more housing resources. Finally, it’s important not to overlook the benefits to housing seekers of a transparent system, which not only makes opportunities easier to find, but inspires confidence in the system overall.

What are the results so far?

Since its launch in 2016, DAHLIA has led to the following results: 

  • 550,000+ online applications
  • 100+ households placed in affordable housing every month
  • 3.7 million site visitors
  • 1.1 million site users
  • 97% of applications completed online, in about 15 minutes, replacing an in-person/on-paper process that could take hours
How can I sign up to hear about updates to Bloom?

Please visit us at https://housing.exygy.com/ to hear the latest news, including case studies and feature updates, so you can learn more about how other cities and counties are implementing Bloom.

How has Bloom empowered affordable housing seekers during the pandemic?

During the current public health emergency, San Francisco is still building affordable housing, exempting new construction with a percentage of affordable homes from recent orders that shut down other construction. Bloom allows contact-less housing search, application, lottery and post-lottery application processing.

What is Bloom?

It’s no secret that the country, especially California, is in the midst of a housing crisis: across the state, more than 40% of residents spend more than 30% of their income on shelter.  In 2015, we joined the City and County of San Francisco to create the Database of Affordable Housing, Listings, Information and Applications (DAHLIA). The portal, built on open source code, makes it easier to find and apply for affordable housing by streamlining the affordable housing experience for housing seekers and property owners - listing, applications, processing, and placement.

DAHLIA’s success demonstrated that our approach could be applied elsewhere. Since the initial launch, in partnership with a regional convening of affordable housing stakeholders, the system has been replicated in other jurisdictions,  and now covers more than half of residents in the San Francisco Bay Area, across the four largest counties. The resulting code, Bloom, is an open-source framework for building digital housing resources that are being adopted across cities and regions. Bloom represents Exygy’s sweet spot: scaling civic tech impact through a collaborative approach —and, in the process, transforming the delivery of an essential human service.

How was Bloom created?

Exygy utilized every tool in our toolkit - from skilled engineering to thoughtful product growth strategy - to develop the affordable housing portal in partnership with San Francisco. Moreover, the human impact of housing issues calls for an intentional process beyond the traditional startup model. We still created a minimum viable product while receiving critical stakeholder feedback and iterated based on what we learned—but we always stayed grounded in the knowledge that our work would shape critical opportunities for real people who needed affordable housing the most. To improve bedrock human services, a product has to incorporate service delivery across different organizations, consider every aspect of the user experience, and meet essential community-level outcomes.

How does Bloom improve the affordable housing application process?

Affordable housing seekers have historically faced a number of challenges:

  • Finding available housing opportunities
  • Confusing eligibility guidelines
  • Lengthy paper applications
  • Different document requirements for each property
  • Requirements to apply in-person during work hours (often waiting in long lines)
  • Opaque post-application processes

Bloom makes finding and applying for affordable housing a 15-minute process, which can be done from a smartphone.  The process was designed around, and with regular testing and input from the housing applicant. Exygy tested versions of Bloom with non-native English speakers, homeless veterans, those who qualify for specific housing programs, and those who access the internet in different ways—for example, at the library, on specific mobile devices, or via their case manager. The aim was to create not only a useful product but a positive one, because as one developer put it, affordable housing seekers “deserve the same level of respect as people who can pay $6,000 a month.”

Imagine you’re a single parent with a full-time job looking for housing for your family, but you don’t know where to look.  Even if you happen to hear about an opportunity, it’s hard or impossible to get off work to pick up the paper application and return it in time to the developer. This is especially true if it’s a popular listing and requires you to wait in line. Complicating the current process more, each affordable housing opportunity requires its own distinct application and process, with limited follow-up information once an application is submitted. Bloom offers a single place to find it all, the ability to complete an application from wherever you are in 15 minutes, and guidance and transparent processes that let you know where you are and what comes next.

How does Bloom get us closer to an online one-stop shop for affordable housing programs, opportunities, and resources?

The hardest thing about affordable housing opportunities is finding them. Opportunities are generally siloed by developer/leasing agent, by type (i.e. housing or subsidy), program (inclusionary vs. tax-credit), agency (housing department or Housing Authority), and jurisdiction, among others. And related support services, like housing counseling, are often another search altogether.

Today, Bloom brings all housing department resources together in one place, and is targeting expansion into Housing Authority services. Additionally, in the Bay Area, Bloom is taking steps toward regional consolidation - creating one place for all agency-sponsored affordable housing.

How does Exygy work with local stakeholders?

Exygy works with diverse stakeholders such as jurisdiction staff, housing counselors, community-based organizations, housing developers (both affordable and market-rate), property managers to ensure our solutions are responsive to local policies and practices. To that end, our process includes the following:

  • Development and on-going facilitation of a steering committee that provides decision-making and feature recommendations
  • Interviews with housing developers and property managers to ensure the system meets all their listings and application requirements, including in the development of a common, short-form application
  • Coordination with jurisdiction staff to develop housing lottery policies
  • In partnership with regional stakeholders, convening across jurisdictions to develop a regional platform shared by neighboring cities/counties
  • Research and interviews to validate that materials (such as glossary, common application, presentation materials, etc) fit stakeholders’ needs 
  • Development of a sustainability plan (initially for the Bay Area) and outreach to funders that might support maintenance (and potentially initial start-up) of the system model for a regional affordable housing system for the region
How does Bloom help a jurisdiction implement local placement preferences?

Local housing placement preferences allow cities and counties to ensure that particular populations have priority over the general population to affordable housing opportunities. Preferences often include residence and/or employment in the jurisdiction, but others may prioritize previous displaced residents, first responders, or teachers.  Bloom can implement any potential preference that a city or county would like to implement, given availability of the data on which the preference is based, and can guide the applicant through the process of qualifying for the preference.

How does Bloom data help jurisdictions meet Fair Housing goals and inform policy decisions?

Bloom provides its sponsoring jurisdictions with demographic data on applicants, which allows agencies to ensure that housing placements are equitable. Through the online digital application process, property managers are provided enough information to select households for vacant units without providing any disaggregated demographic data that might unduly influence the tenant selection process, while still providing aggregated data for reporting requirements. 

Additional data, such as popularity of property listings with select features, such bedrooms counts, neighborhoods, and other items helps inform housing developers and policymakers.

How does Bloom improve the affordable housing application process for leasing agents and property managers?

The current workflow for leasing agents and property managers who are currently not using a digital system requires extensive and complicated spreadsheets to manage applicants. Not only does Bloom meet the needs of affordable housing seekers with an easy-to-navigate online web portal, but it also provides leasing agents and property managers with a new digital tool, the Partners Portal, to manage thousands of applications.

What are the results so far?

Since its launch in 2016, DAHLIA has led to the following results: 

  • 550,000+ online applications
  • 100+ households placed in affordable housing every month
  • 3.7 million site visitors
  • 1.1 million site users
  • 97% of applications completed online, in about 15 minutes, replacing an in-person/on-paper process that could take hours
How can I sign up to hear about updates to Bloom?

Please visit us at https://housing.exygy.com/ to hear the latest news, including case studies and feature updates, so you can learn more about how other cities and counties are implementing Bloom.

How has Bloom empowered affordable housing seekers during the pandemic?

During the current public health emergency, San Francisco is still building affordable housing, exempting new construction with a percentage of affordable homes from recent orders that shut down other construction. Bloom allows contact-less housing search, application, lottery and post-lottery application processing.