Zillow Group is leveraging its position as a leading real estate technology company to try to do something about the insecurity some people feel about their ability to stay in their homes as costs rise and incomes don’t across the country.
The Seattle-based company announced Thursday that it was pledging $5 million in cash and in-kind contributions over the next five years as part of its first social impact program called The Home Project.
Zillow points out in a news release that many people can find themselves just one medical bill, job loss, or rental increase away from losing their homes these days. The company cites its own research for cities such as Seattle, where a 5 percent average rent increase in 2016 would have translated to adding 258 people to the homeless population for a total of 12,498.
The Home Project identifies several pillars that Zillow says it can address thanks to its people, platform and products:
- Community Partners: Non-profits in the regions where the company has offices will receive $25,000 in addition to in-kind contributions such as product development, marketing resources, economic research and volunteer time. This year, these groups are: Women in Need (New York); Habitat for Humanity of Orange County (Irvine, Calif.); and three in Seattle — Mary’s Place, Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC) and Seattle Housing Authority. Additional partners in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver, Lincoln, San Francisco, and Vancouver B.C., will be named next year.
- Neighborhood Ambassadors: Employees can assume this role by nominating local non-profits whose missions align with the project. Selected organizations receive $1,500 and coordinated volunteer support office-wide.
- Product Development: Zillow is already doing this for the dedicated audience that uses its brands each month. In 2016, Zillow Group announced a new rental search filter “Community Pillar and Income Restricted,” which enables renters who qualify as low-income, or with imperfect housing history to connect with a landlord who is willing to rent to them. An employee cash prize was also introduced to encourage those who create such products as part of Hack Weeks and Innovation Weeks.
“At Zillow Group, our mission every day is to help millions of Americans find the place they call home, and we are uniquely positioned to understand the challenges some face and impact their housing outcomes,” Amy Bohutinsky, COO of Zillow Group, said in a statement. “Focusing on housing security is a natural extension of our work, and we will tackle it with all the resources we have to offer — shining a light on information through economic research, mobilizing our employees, contributing to organizations, and building products and features across our real estate and rental brands. We believe everyone deserves a home where they can thrive, regardless of their economic circumstances.”