2018 Feature, Small Newsroom winner

Californians: Here’s Why Your Housing Costs Are So High

About the Project

Data reporter Matt Levin and fiscal reporter Ben Christopher teamed up with news developer John Osborn D’Agostino by using a card deck to tell the complex story of why California’s housing costs are so high. They put together a graphically pleasing set of 21 cards that each answered a different question about how bad the affordable home crisis is and how it got that way. Each card is conversational in tone, stands on its own, and is packed with data bites. We found readers sharing the individual cards on social media.

With that card deck, CALmatters also debuted a new collaboration with Hearken, a platform that helps news outlets engage directly with their audiences by inviting them to share questions about an issue and then get their questions answered. We got more than 500 questions and everyone voted on the questions they most wanted answered, including “Do regulations and fees make it much more expensive to build in California than in other states?” and “How do foreign investment and large investment firms buying single-family homes affect prices?” Inviting readers in by asking them what they want to know about is the first step; connecting with the readers who posed the questions and then answering those questions produces a new form of reader-driven storytelling. CALmatters reporter Matt Levin did just that after the housing card deck was published.

The popularity of the housing card deck spurred Matt Levin to delve deeper into housing issues in California, and he launched what is now a weekly Gimme Shelter housing podcast that is drawing thousands of loyal listeners each week.