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Evictions are coming–but these innovations could help

December 21, 2021, 4:33 PM UTC
A family being evicted out of their apartment on Sept. 30, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Evictions have resumed nationwide since protections for renters impacted by the coronavirus pandemic lapsed.
John Moore - Getty Images

Evictions have been on the rise since the expiration of moratoriums and pandemic housing protections, and millions of American renters are at risk of being forced out of their homes, with Black Americans facing the greatest risk. It’s time for a serious discussion about what can be done to keep people housed, not just during the pandemic, but post-pandemic as well.

Over the past few years, technology has given rise to a few major resources in housing and renting which policymakers should take note of. While technology alone won’t solve the affordability crisis, these proven innovations could help many families keep a roof over their heads. And with 15 million Americans behind on rent, we should be using every tool in the box to prevent eviction and increase affordability in a sustainable way.

An alternative to the cash security deposit

Moving expenses are one of the biggest hurdles for families seeking affordable housing. Between the first month’s rent, the security deposit, application fees, and the cost of renting a moving truck, finding a new place can cost thousands of dollars.

Or at least it used to. New services are now working to eliminate one of the biggest ticket items in moving: the security deposit. Apps like Rhino are offering an alternative called “security deposit insurance.”

Here’s how it works. Instead of paying a lump sum of often more than $1,000 as a security deposit, renters using security deposit insurance pay their provider a low monthly fee of as little as $5 to $10. It’s like the premium on your health insurance, but way cheaper, and allows prospective renters to get their foot in the door of a new place by lowering upfront costs.

To support this innovation, cities like Atlanta and Cincinnati have passed “Renter’s Choice” legislation, requiring landlords to offer low-cost alternatives to the cash security deposit like insurance. Now, lawmakers from North Carolina to New Hampshire are supportive of following suit and providing renters with financial options.

The biggest game-changer is the impact this product could have on low-income renters and traditionally marginalized communities. Seniors and people with disabilities have historically struggled to overcome barriers to housing like the security deposit. Victims of domestic abuse can use this option to quickly secure new, safe housing.

Reducing the cost of new housing

It’s no secret that one of the primary causes of today’s skyrocketing housing costs is a nationwide housing shortage. Freddie Mac estimates the country is nearly four million homes short of meeting demand.

New services are using some of the latest innovations–from modular construction to 3D printing and bio-manufactured materials–to help build quality homes at low costs. There’s Boxabl, which is working on foldable homes they hope will be “the lowest cost housing solution ever.” There are ICON and Mighty Buildings which have broken new ground in the development of 3D-printed houses. Habitat for Humanity even found a corporate partner to build its first-ever 3D-printed home, leading the charge on this innovative housing solution.

While some of these technologies are still in development, experts and affordable housing advocates are already talking about the role these advancements will have in solving the housing affordability crisis.

House sharing apps

The quickest way to put a roof over everyone’s head? House sharing. It’s space-efficient, it’s affordable, and it reduces social isolation.

A handful of property technology companies are connecting people with house-sharing opportunities that fit their budgets. While some are targeting higher-income markets, most are aiming to tackle housing affordability by offering better value than a studio or what tenants might face elsewhere in today’s housing market. PadSplit, for instance, provides rentals at about $140 to $250 a week, catering to renters with an average annual income of $25,000.

President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better housing plan will help ease the affordability crisis, but there is no single answer that will address our nation’s low housing supply or high costs. Lawmakers will have to take a multi-pronged approach to address housing affordability.

While there’s no silver bullet, it’s critical we consider the silicon bullet: innovations our nation’s tech companies have come up with.

Adam Kovacevich is the CEO and founder of the Chamber of Progress (progresschamber.org), a new center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology’s progressive future. Chamber of Progress corporate partners include Rhino, among other companies.

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