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Housing Connector: Opening the Door to Stable Housing

  • May 16, 2024
  • 5 min

Built out of a belief that everyone should have a choice where they live, Housing Connector aims to increase access to housing for renters in historically marginalized communities.

While working at the Seattle Housing Authority, founder Shkelqim Kelmendi witnessed a paradoxical problem: families who had the ability to pay rent, but couldn’t get anyone to open the door.

“The irony is that someone might actually be a reliable renter, but there are biases at play that prevent them from getting into a home,” says Housing Venture Lab Director Kara Murray-Badal. “Housing Connector is helping to remove these barriers.”

Even with a housing voucher, a low credit score or past eviction can make it hard for renters to get approved. Housing Connector addresses this by partnering with property managers who agree to reduce screening criteria and accept vouchers. These properties then get added to an easy-to-use search platform run by Zillow, so renters can quickly identify, apply for, and move into a home.

In exchange, Housing Connector provides rent support and damage mitigation funds for residents enrolled in the program, limiting evictions and helping residents stay housed. They also partner with nonprofit service providers to provide conflict mitigation and other social services for renters.

“Our vision is to design products that can predict housing instability and deliver just in time solutions at scale to support millions of families on their path out of poverty and towards self-sufficiency,” says Kelmendi.

Since its launch in Seattle in 2019, Housing Connector has helped more than 6,000 people get housed. They have since expanded their services throughout Washington State and into Denver, Dallas, and Portland.

Kelmendi says participation in the 2023 Housing Venture Lab cohort helped the organization plan for growth: “Being a part of the Terner Housing Venture Lab allowed us to join a community of innovators committed to support one another in the pursuit of equitable housing for all. As part of the Lab, we were connected with industry leaders and mentors to pressure test our ideas and strategies to maximize our impact in a sustainable way. The Housing Lab amplified our impact and has allowed us to open pathways for national expansion.”