Mayor Mike Duggan and Google announced today that the City of Detroit has been selected for Google.org’s Fellowship Program, in which 13 Google employees will spend six months pro bono supporting the City to develop an affordable housing locator search tool.
Google.org Fellows will work alongside the City’s Housing & Revitalization Department with the mission of addressing housing instability in the city by helping Detroiters find affordable housing, making it easier to rent and stay in the city. The vision is to streamline the process of searching and applying for affordable housing, and having housing opportunities listed in one place and updated frequently.
When it is ready later this year, Detroiters using the portal will be able to:
- Use search filters to help them find the affordable housing options they want.
- Gain an understanding of how affordable housing works and their eligibility for different types of affordable housing.
- Learn about the process and requirements for applying for and accessing affordable housing.
- Additional functions may include an online application for affordable housing and enrollment in text message updates about new housing opportunities.
“We are proud of the work we are doing to preserve and create thousands of affordable housing units across the city, but it doesn’t help if the people who need them don’t know how to find them,” Mayor Duggan said. “I am deeply appreciative to our partners at Google.org Fellows to develop a tool that will help more Detroiters find the right housing options so they can have the opportunity to live affordably in the neighborhood of their choice.”
Thousands of affordable units available
The development of such a tool has been a priority of the administration to complement its affordable housing preservation and development goals. Today, there are nearly 24,000 units of regulated affordable housing in Detroit, including 4,957 that have been preserved or developed since 2018. Though the City is investing heavily in the development and preservation of affordable housing, there has not been a way for residents in need of affordable housing to reliably find what is available or get clear information about how to access it.
The portal will be tested with residents, community-based organizations, City administrators, housing counselors, and property managers/landlords to ensure it is user-friendly and includes the information Detroiters want in such a search tool. Google.org Fellows will also develop a sustainability plan for how to maintain the portal. The Google.org Fellows have expertise in software engineering, user experience research and design, marketing, product management, and more.
“Google and Mayor Duggan’s administration share a commitment to creating opportunity for everyone,” said Rob Biederman, Head of Midwest Government Affairs for Google. “By bringing together the best of Google’s technical expertise and resources with the City’s first-hand knowledge of the community’s needs, we hope to have a lasting positive impact for the residents of Detroit by helping make affordable housing even more accessible to people all across the city.”
“The process of finding market rate rentals has gotten significantly easier with the growth in online housing search tools. We believe that low-income households should be able to expect a comparable experience when looking for affordable housing,” said Julie Schneider, interim director of HRD. “We hear weekly from Detroiters who need help in finding available affordable housing, so the Google Fellows will be helping us address an incredible need in our city.”