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public housing
Daryan Shamkhali

New Program Brings Real Estate Technology to New York City Public Housing

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New York City’s poorly maintained stock of public housing will soon be a proving ground for local real estate technology startups. The Fund for Public Housing, a non-profit founded to facilitate public-private partnerships, is helping the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) find innovative solutions through a program called 2017 NYCHA Tech Pilots.

The program’s goal is to discover new ways for NYCHA to improve how it manages its 326 developments and serves its residents. With 1 in 14 New Yorkers living in public housing, NYCHA is the country’s largest residential landlord and plays a critical role in the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

NYCHA is facing over $17 billion in unmet capital needs and potentially devastating budget cuts, according to NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “In a city where more than half of New Yorkers pay more than 50 percent of their income towards rent, let alone our residents that are struggling to pay their rent already, these cuts are devastating,” Olatoye told Commercial Observer.

MetaProp NYC and Grand Central Tech helped find the right companies to apply for the pilot program through their networks of New York City startups. The organizations are tow of the leading tech accelerators supporting startup companies by connecting them to advisors and coworking spaces to develop their products. Applicants were chosen for their understanding of how technology can support public housing into the future.

The program was launched at The Urban Tech Hub @ Grand Central Tech with a formal pitch event from 10 shortlisted finalists. The invitation for applicants was left intentionally broad to encourage as many creative responses as possible. Each finalist had six minutes to pitch why their technology would be a great fit for NYCHA. Topics covered issues such as conserving wasted energy, streamlining project management and easing resident stress.

After the pitches, NYCHA staff was able to ask up to three questions to each company. Staff, led by Chair Olatoye and General Manager Michael Kelly, will deliberate and announce the three winners later this month. The selected companies will then have the opportunity to run a three-month pilot program with NYCHA to demonstrate the utility of their product.

Zachary Aarons, Founding Partner of MetaProp NYC, said: “Our partnership with the Fund for Public Housing and The Hub at Grand Central Tech is an extraordinary opportunity to use New York City’s status as the center of global PropTech to benefit private sector tech job growth and greater efficiency, savings and service delivery to the nation’s largest public housing organization.”

Participants in the pilot receive no financial reward and NYCHA is not under any obligation to enter into a formal, long-term contract with the selected pilot programs. The ten companies shortlisted were (in the order of their presentations): Citiesense, Carbon Lighthouse, Numina, BlocPower, Radiator Labs, ThinkEco, hOM, Pansofik, onTarget, and enertiv.

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