November 5, 2019 • STIR

How Technology Can Help the Affordable Housing and Homelessness Crisis in America

Over three million Americans experience homelessness every year [3]. Homelessness is significantly associated with increased mortality [4]. More than one-third of American households have difficulty paying for housing, associated with increased stress and subsequent increased rates of chronic disease. From the quality of housing, to the burden of the cost of housing, individual health is significantly affected by housing. — (Science Direct)

Affordable housing and homelessness are critical issues across the country that don’t just affect the few; they affect millions of people from coast to coast, causing downstream impacts on everything from community health to economic development to climate.

Shelter is one of the most basic necessities for the health of individuals and societies, yet in the United States, housing is not considered a human right in most jurisdictions.

Today far too many are facing homelessness or a choice between adequate food and housing. This is an issue too complex to be solved by technology alone, but governments won’t solve it independently either. That’s why we’re so optimistic about the potential for the private companies to partner with governments to create solutions together.

Image for post

Long Beach, CA and Norfolk, VA are two cities taking action to address the problem through technology, inviting startups to apply to develop solutions through STIR to support housing initiatives. Several challenges are now open for applications from companies that want to improve communications, monitoring and assessments to support government housing initiatives.

Here’s a preview of the current opportunities:

Assessing Fair Housing Goals in Long Beach, CA

The Long Beach Housing and Neighborhood Services Bureau is seeking a comprehensive solution to improve data collection, mapping and tracking of programs to address fair housing issues in the city. This system will enable Long Beach to track how much investment is happening in areas of poverty, visualize the level of impact of these programs, and better assess deficiencies in high-need areas.

Tracking Shelter Bed Availability in Real-Time in Long Beach, CA

The Long Beach Health Department is seeking to develop an app that will allow service providers, health department staff, police and fire departments to see and share data to support people experiencing homelessness. This solution will collect data on bed availability for shelters, detox, substance use treatment and mental health services, and other types of public, private, and non-profit beds.

Monitoring Housing Affordability in Long Beach, CA

To improve compliance with affordable housing covenants, Long Beach Housing and Neighborhood Services is looking for an improved system to collect data and track affordability. This solution will help city staff to generate, automate and streamline monitoring of more than 7,200 recorded affordability covenants citywide.

Tracking Housing Production in Long Beach, CA

The Long Beach Planning Bureau is seeking to develop a dashboard to report the entitlement, permitting and construction of new housing. This will enable the city to make housing production information available to city stakeholders and the public at a time when there is a critical need to add to the affordable housing supply.

Leveraging Technology to Build Social Connections in Norfolk, VA

The City of Norfolk has developed an ambitious plan to transform the St. Paul’s area, home to the largest concentration of public housing units in the region. St. Pauls has been plagued by flooding, crime and lack of connectivity, causing an intergenerational cycle of poverty and creating a sense of physical, social and economic isolation. To communicate with a large number of people in the area, Norfolk is seeking to develop a mobile app to share updates and information about the transformation project.

See a challenge you think you could solve or know someone who could? These governments are accepting applications from startups at all stages of development, from anywhere in the world until November 20th. Find out more at