Several weeks ago, over 200 San Mateo County citizens met at Canada College to participate in discussions and listen to experts talk about the housing crisis San Mateo County is facing today. Threshold2008, a Deliberative Polling project carried on through Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy with Professor James Fishkin, originally contacted almost 1600 County residents by telephone. 238 were asked to go to Canada College and spend two days learning about housing issues.
The participants were pretty similar to those of us living in this county. I saw the participants ranging from college age to retirement. Ethnicity, race, gender were similar to those who were non-participants. All were asked a series of questions on the phone and it was discovered that there was very little difference in the answers by the two groups. Only two questions had a statistical difference, which is amazing.
The men and women giving up their weekend several weeks ago became significantly more informed about San Mateo County’s housing issues. Almost no one knew the median price of a single family house in the county before coming, but after the two days 19% knew it. Before the weekend 26% could tell you the approximate percentage of households who afford a median priced house in the county, but by the end of the weekend 58% knew.
Where housing should be located in the county has always been a big issue. Before the weekend 61% of those attending felt new housing should be located in areas already developed and the number rose to 72%, which surprised me. People began to see why it’s so important to build housing in our county for those working here, as it will minimize the number of commuters driving through.
This group, 65% of them, sees the need for a regional authority to help plan for our housing needs. 74% now believe that developers should be required to provide more Below Market Rate housing when they build a project. They also connected the dots in understanding how a housing shortage effects the economic vitality of our entire region through the loss of jobs due to businesses moving to more affordable locations and how this impacts our education systems, fire, police, and health care.
If you’re interested in participating in the online portion of this Deliberative Pole, you can do so by going to Threshold2008 and signing up. This is just the beginning of what this project hopes to do. Keep watching here for more.