This past weekend Zillow and the University of Washington’s Computer Science & Engineering school hosted “Hack Housing: Empowering Smarter Decisions” – a weekend hackathon focused on coming up with creative solutions to make it easier for first-time home buyers, low-income renters and senior citizens to find a home that meets their needs.
As a part of Seattle’s largest open data hackathon ever, participants were given access to newly released government data sets from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Commerce, as well as local data sets from a variety of sources, including the Seattle Housing Authority and the Seattle Housing Finance Commission.
Zillow Chairman Rich Barton and former U.S. Deputy CTO Nick Sinai kicked off a weekend hackathon Friday night at the Zillow Tower, where more than 300 developers gathered for a fireside chat about the importance of the open government data.
After 72 hours of brainstorming, coding and consuming hundreds of cans of Red Bull, the event ended Sunday afternoon with 30 teams each giving three-minute pitches to a panel of judges that included Zillow CTO David Beitel, UW Computer Science & Engineering professor Ed Lazowska, and the City of Seattle’s Deputy Mayor of External Affairs, Hyeok Kim.
Ideas ranged from a tool that lets senior citizens filter available housing based on accessibility requirements to a social network type product that helps people find a community that best fits their needs.
Taking the top prize of $10,000 was “SmartMove,” which allows users to enter a series of locations, along with how often they visit each of them. The product then computes a polygon based on those locations representing the optimal area where that user could live to be close to their commitments. There are placeholders to gather more information about government programs they may qualify for and their income, and to use these factors to make suggestions of available assistance programs.
The second place, $5,000 prize went to “Push to Rent,” a software that gives low-income renters the ability to apply for and find housing in one easy-to-use environment. Its website lets users upload rental application information once and easily use the data again for future listings. For those that may not have a smartphone or Internet access, the app has a text message feature that gives people a way to apply via text messaging.
The third place, $3,000 prize went to “Zillow Wheeler,” which provides a better way for those with disabilities to search for accessible housing.