The rental application process can be brutal especially in competitive markets like the Sacramento Metro.
Rental seekers can take the time to apply to multiple units, pay the fee for each application -- which can now go up to $49.12 -- and still end up declined by all options. It can be a frustrating and expensive experience. For those who are already struggling to make ends meet, application fees can eat up money saved for a deposit or family bills.
However, Mayor Steve Ly and the City of Elk Grove are hoping to find a solution to the cost burden of rental application fees.
The city is one of 35 cities selected in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge. The competition encourages city leaders to submit innovative ideas to resolve their communities toughest problems.
The competition received 320 applications and selected 35 to move forward to the next round. The 35 cities will receive grant funding of up to $100,000 to test pilot their idea throughout a six-month period. Cities will refine their idea during this time and submit a new application in August.
In October, five winners will be selected from the 35 cities. Four will receive $1 million awards and one will receive the grand prize of $5 million to begin implementing their idea.
While brainstorming ideas for the contest, the City of Elk Grove decided to tackle the issue of affordable housing, according to Sarah Bontrager, the City's Housing and Public Services manager.
The goal is to create a more simple, cheaper way for people to apply for housing, so money wouldn't be wasted on rejected applications.
The process would work similar to a matching game, where applicants would be paired with a landlord's minimum requirements such as salary and credit score, to help reduce time, cost and effort spent on finding housing, Bontrager said.
The details of what the process would look like are still unknown since the City will just begin testing ideas with the money granted by Bloomberg.
However, Bontrager said city officials have an idea of some of the challenges the process may bump into along the way such as making a landlord's participation worthwhile -- since they will be the ones giving up application fees -- and making sure applicant privacy is safely maintained.
The City is even discussing renter education courses similar to homebuyer education courses used by lenders to help strengthen the relationship between applicants and landlords.
Vallejo also made the list of 35 cities for an innovative idea to repair the city's underground infrastructure. Mayor Bob Sampayan and the City plan to leverage ground-penetrating radar, self-driving vehicles and sensors to identify broken pipes more effectively and efficiently.