Non-profit housing connector has helped house 3,754 people over the past three years, 66% of whom are households of color. The organization uses Zillow’s technology to match private owners with vacant units with people looking for affordable housing.
The initiative was launched in Seattle in 2019 and expanded to Denver in 2021 and aims to house families and individuals struggling to find housing due to past evictions.
The majority of people helped by Housing Connector earn less than $28,000 per year. In Seattle, a renter will spend about $27,420 each year on housing and one in Denver will spend $24,335, according to Zillow.
In 2021, the program expanded to Pierce County in Washington and Denver in November, with help from housing-focused organizations like Metro Denver Homeless Initiative (MDHI) and HousingFirst Lab.
The organization’s founder and executive director, Shkëlqim Kelmendi, moved to the United States with his family as refugees from Kosovo and since they had no credit history, they struggled to find housing. in a new country.
Kelmendi says the program was created to make sure houses don’t sit empty while there are people looking for accommodation, especially vulnerable people who are already homeless.
“This business-to-business approach is a win for everyone, serving as a bridge for vacant apartment owners to connect with case managers and ready-to-let tenants,” Kelmendi said in the statement. “Leveraging existing and available housing is an effective and efficient way to remove barriers to housing for people experiencing homelessness.
Housing Connector offers financial guarantees, damage mitigation and local community support, making it easy for families to rent homes. The program also eliminates the need for case managers to manually review or contact properties to verify if their clients are eligible for long-term housing, as they can access available units through the enrollment platform.
“I’ve been able to use the search tool with clients to find affordable housing in the Denver area that may work for them, and then Housing Connector steps in to help take deposits or resolve issues with managers real estate to make sure everyone can stay housed,” Nicole Brown, case manager for Volunteers of America Colorado, said in a statement.
The median monthly rent in the United States is over $2,000 nationally, a 15% year-over-year increase and a 37% increase since 2017. This has led to a further increase in the homelessness.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 326,000 people experienced homelessness in 2021, an 8% decrease from 2020. HUD waived the 2021 homeless count due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Homelessness affects people of color at a higher rate than white people in the country.
“We were founded on ‘Turning on the Lights’ for people who navigate a complex and often difficult journey when trying to find housing,” said Aldona Clottey, vice president of corporate social responsibility at Zillow. . “Our technology has helped achieve this goal in real estate and we want to offer this expertise to those who face the challenge of finding a way out of homelessness.”
The program partners with owners, managers and owners. Over 1,300 properties in the Seattle and Denver areas have been listed with Housing Connector, consisting of over 73,000 homes.
Through Zillow’s search tool, case managers and their clients can access listings of affordable housing. Program properties adjust or waive criteria such as credit and rent history for residents.
When matching a customer with a unit, Housing Connector offers two years of guaranteed rent, damage mitigation, and two years of housing stability support for landlords.
“As a leader in affordable housing, with decades of experience managing thousands of rental units across the western United States, we knew immediately the value Housing Connector would bring to Denver’s affordable housing landscape” , Brooke Parra, Executive Vice President of Ross-Envolve Communities, said in the press release.
“Through this partnership, once a vacancy occurs, our community managers list the vacancy and Housing Connector partners can find the unit and begin placing a tenant.”
A total of 162 community providers like the City of Redmond and Volunteers of America in Denver, use the program to house clients in vacant properties.
“Through our strong partnership with Housing Connector, we are proud to have helped find homes for over a dozen households in just four months in Redmond, as well as Kirkland and Bellevue,” said Angela Birney, mayor of Redmond, in the statement.
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