The latest tenant advocate? Civic hackers

Projects take aim at bad landlords

TRD New York /
Dec.December 04, 2018 12:13 PM

(Credit: iStock)

Civic coders are emerging as the newest champion of New York City’s tenants.

A group of hackers, dubbed the Housing Data Coalition, meet each month in Brooklyn to discuss possible data-driven projects to help tenants dealing with negligent landlords, the New York Times reported. Existing projects include an app called Heatseek, which allows tenants to record and report the temperature in their homes. The Displacement Alert Project maps out buildings at risk of displacement.

Partially inspired by discussions at meetings of the Housing Data Coalition, nonprofit technology start-up launched Who Owns What. The database looks to remove the anonymity landlords have by owning properties under different shell companies — that makes it difficult when residents from different buildings are are looking to organize against the same landlord. (Since limited liability companies were legalized in New York in 1994, the shell entities have become one of the most dominant ways individuals and companies buy property, according to a recent analysis by The Real Deal.)

Before the database’s official launch, its founders shared it with legal providers and housing advocates, and now more than 20,000 searches have been conducted on the website, according to the Times.

“The real estate industry has many more programmers, many more developers, many more technical tools at their disposal,” Ziggy Mintz, a computer programmer and member of the coalition, told the Times. “It never quite seems fair that the tenant side of the equation doesn’t have the same tools.” [NYT] — Kathryn Brenzel

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