A new organization in King County, incubated by the Seattle Metro Chamber, partners with private property owners to rapidly house people most in need of a stable place to live.
“This is an approach that can significantly move the needle in our community. We are making the decision to dream big,” said Shkëlqim Kelmendi, sitting in the sun at a table in the Seattle Metro Chamber’s downtown Seattle office. Kelmendi is executive director of Housing Connector. As its first employee, he is building the new organization.
Creating win-win opportunities
Housing Connector has a pilot underway, with plans to serve a first household this month and to fully launch at the end of September. Its goal is to create win-win opportunities for landlords and service providers working to tackle homelessness.
“A vacant unit is a loss for everyone,” Kelmendi said.
The program acts as a B2B connector, working with both property owners and service providers. Participating property owners agree to lower barriers that potential tenants may face, such as tenant income requirements, credit score requirements, eviction history qualifications, and criminal screening requirements. In return, Housing Connector offers risk mitigation funding for any damage to the unit, rent is guaranteed, and a single point of contact is provided for any issues that occur.
“This is important because we know that even households that have a rental subsidy, with a voucher in their hand – they still can’t access this market due to some of these other barriers that are keeping them out,” Kelmendi said.
With Housing Connector’s support, property owners can more confidently rent to people most in need of housing – and see their vacancy rate decrease.
Service providers benefit because they are able to place their clients into housing faster and there are more units available. Housing Connector provides an exclusive free platform for providers, where they can filter and match for units that meet their clients’ needs.The organization also acts as the point of contact on the service provider’s end, streamlining communication.
A third, critical group that wins from a successful Housing Connector: the people in our community most in need of stable housing.
In Seattle and King County, on January 25, 2019, the night of the 2019 Point in Time Count, there were 11,199 people experiencing homelessness.
“Our hope is that we will decrease the amount of time individuals are out on the street, or living in their car or couch-surfing,” Kelmendi said.
Housing Connector has also partnered with Zillow to design a new platform that will automate the matching process, allowing individuals to quickly find a home.
We sat down with Shkëlqim Kelmendi to hear more about Housing Connector, learn about his personal connection to the organization, and hear about how the work will be uniquely important to the greater Seattle metro region.
Read our Q&A with Shkëlqim here.