NYC Big Apps 2015 - affordable housing data on vacancies/waitlists

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(Nik Abraham) #1

Hi folks - my name is Nik and I made an app that’s a finalist in the Affordable Housing category in this year’s BigApps. Affordable housing is especially interesting this year given Mayor de Blasio’s proposals and the community reaction.

For new affordable housing, NYC has good resources. You can see these units on govt websites like HDC, HPD, or Housing Connect, review income/family guidelines, and (usually) download an application.

For older affordable housing, after the initial lease up every building and their managing agents have their own process for filling vacancies and adding to the waitlist. Some post of CraigsList, some use Housing Connect, some don’t do anything. 90% of the older buildings listed on city websites (e.g., HDC) have this message: “Initial Application period over. Please contact the Managing Agent for more information.”

I’m contacting these buildings (~2,000), mapping the building status (vacancy, waitlist, unavailable), and making the data available via map for consumers and API for devs. Creating an original data set is hard - on the positive side I don’t need some big network effect for it to work, but on the other hand it’s manual and expensive - every pass costs ~$800, and I’m unsure if anyone wants/will use this data.

Would love to hear your feedback on

i. Creative ways to collect this data - right now I’m using postcards ($0.35/address) and outsourced oDesk workers ($0.40/address) with ~2,000 total buildings, and data refresh every 2-3 months.
ii. Whether the data is of interest, or other obstacles limit the usefulness even if collected
iii. Ideas to get traction and avoiding yet-another-app issues.
iv. What hacks ppl use to find affordable housing - I know the normal process, have seen forums posts discussing availability, and have read a few hacks, but am curious to learn of others.