Civic Hackers Code to Solve Mobility Problems in Affordable Housing

A hackathon in Washington, D.C., led to the creation of several apps that aim to make transportation easier for low-income families.

by / March 8, 2016
The team behind Project Happy Home, from left to right: Martin Folkoff, Shaq Katikala, Kevin Hawkins, Savanna Rovira and Naudy Martinez. U.S. Department of Transportation

There’s a lot more to making affordable housing more affordable than low rent.

For people living in that housing, transportation is also going to be a big expense. That means public transit, and all the challenges that come with it.

With that thought in mind, more than 50 people participated in a hackathon in Washington, D.C., during the last weekend in February. The “Hack the Last Mile” hackathon challenged its participants to come up with tech-focused solutions for making it easy for low-income people to use public transit, according to a blog post from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The winner, “Project Happy Home,” built an app that shows the rent of affordable housing and factors in the cost of transportation based on common places residents will travel. The app also shows travel times, and factors apartment occupancy into the cost of the housing as well.

All participants got access to datasets from the U.S. DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Census Bureau, as well as data hosting from Socrata and onsite development expertise from Uber.

According to the blog post, other teams focused on connecting users with nearby carpoolers and helping people find affordable housing near medical facilities.

The concept of transportation has begun playing a bigger factor in affordable housing lately, with California setting aside cap-and-trade money to help connect affordable housing with public transit. Officials in the state have posited that the distance between affordable housing and other key destinations should be factored in when that housing is in development.