Now, the city’s leadership and one of city’s biggest real estate tech companies are partnering up to try to get more people into affordable housing.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine this week announced a partnership with Zillow.
As part of the partnership, Zillow developed and is powering a search tool that will help match local nonprofit service providers and their clients experiencing homelessness with owners of affordable vacant rental units.
This tool was developed in coordination with the Seattle Office of Housing, local nonprofit organization Housing Connector and its network of service providers and property owners, and Zillow.
According to the parties involved, the project came from Durkan’s Innovation Advisory Council, which includes the corporate, academic, and nonprofit sectors. The council works with the city to use data and technology to address the city’s homelessness, affordability, mobility, and other issues.
“We are fortunate to live in one of the most innovative, talent-rich ecosystems anywhere on the planet – and for too long, our government has existed as if we have no relationship to it. I created the Innovation Advisory Council because we know that the challenges facing our region cannot be addressed by government alone,” Durkan said in a statement.
By using the Zillow-created tool, case managers are able to more efficiently search for affordable housing, making it easier for them to help their clients avoid homelessness.
Via this tool, Housing Connector partner landlords upload housing inventory, allowing local nonprofits to find affordable housing in real-time for their clients.
Housing Connector landlords also have an adjusted or waived criteria that would normally prevent those in need from qualifying for the home.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that Zillow and the Housing Connector have done to make it easier for people experiencing homelessness to find affordable housing and for affordable housing providers to connect with those in need,” Durkan said. “Zillow, Housing Connector, and the Seattle Office of Housing have shown that by working together, we can find truly innovative solutions to some of our region’s most pressing challenges.”
Housing Connector provides free referrals to ready-to-rent residents and financial support to cover a variety of costs, including ensuring access to benefits that include rent guarantee, security deposits, damage mitigation funds, and unit hold fees, to name a few.
In exchange, property owners will adjust criteria or lower barriers for potential tenants, opening up units that previously were out of reach for individuals experiencing homelessness.
According to the group, there are currently 35 landlords in Seattle and King County and 42 nonprofit service providers active on the platform, with more partners expected to be added soon.
“As a company headquartered in Seattle, Zillow is committed to doing what we can to help address one of the greatest challenges facing our region today: housing affordability and homelessness,” said Racquel Russell, vice president of government relations and public affairs for Zillow.
“When asked by the mayor to serve on her Innovation Advisory Council and work with Housing Connector — which needed a better way to find and surface available housing inventory — we saw an opportunity to use our unique skillset to build a tool that will help Housing Connector fulfill its mission to help families find a home.”