Heralding their tool as a win-win example of what can happen when businesses join forces with communities around a shared vision, the founders and initial supporters of Housing Connector are celebrating recent milestones.
Housing Connector is a business-to-business nonprofit that functions as the bridge that connects private multifamily property owners and case managers at nonprofits to those most in need of housing. Believing “no unit should sit vacant while there are households in need of homes,” its mission is to partner with property owners and managers to lower barriers to housing and increase the region’s affordable housing capacity.
Last month, Housing Connector became a partner with HHN Communities on an initiative to launch Washington’s first private rental assistance program for affordable housing residents. The pilot program will be supported by a $2 million philanthropic donation from the ownership coalition of HNN’s parent company, DevCo. With 39 properties and 21,000 residents, HNN is the state’s largest affordable housing provider.
The rental relief funding will support HNN Communities’ residents to offset the impact of rising rents. Over 80% of the households occupying HNN rentals earn less than 50% of the area median income (AMI). The assistance will help fill rent payment differentials this year from August to December.
HNN officials said the partnership with Housing Connector enables them to assist residents “with tangible, accessible resources while ensuring the process is fair and professionally managed.”
Housing Connector uses an affordable housing search tool developed by Zillow’s social impact product team. The tool, which is built into Zillow’s rental platform, helps uncover rentals faster and fill them more quickly than prior methods. Social workers who log onto the site can view available rental units not displayed to the general public and are able to connect with property managers to start the application process.
Housing Connector provides free access to its exclusive listing platform, free resident referrals, and financial benefits to private property owners and managers.
In exchange for lowering or eliminating screening criteria, property owners receive incentives and assurances that rent will be paid and any unit damage will be mitigated.
During its first year of operations, Housing Connector partnered not only with Zillow, but also with the city of Seattle, King County, and the Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Among other early housing providers were Greystar, Goodman Real Estate and Security Properties.
Housing Connector reported finding housing for 1,027 people during its inaugural year of operations, in partnership with 320 operators of multifamily properties and 572 case managers at 54 nonprofit service providers. Only $700 in damages were paid.
Since its launch in Q4 2019, Housing Connector and its partners have connected over 2,900 individuals to housing.
The Zillow-Housing Connector collaboration was recognized by Fast Company with an honorable mention in its “World Changing Ideas Awards.” Zillow also received the 2020 Corporate Champion Neighborhood and Communities Award from the Puget Sound Business Journal.