From Stagnation To Innovation

Josie, the Executive Director of The Greensboro Housing Coalition (GHC), and her staff were thoroughly overwhelmed when I met them.

GHC assists low-income individuals and families find safe, fair, and affordable housing. But the non-profit had a serious problem.

In 2019 they faced an influx of service requests for home inspections. Low income renters would often find themselves in trouble because they signed leases without understanding their legal rights as renters. 

Out of ignorance or malice, landlords were requiring renters to deal with issues like leaky pipes, mold, broken appliances, or applying a fresh coat of paint. 

GHC offers free rental property inspections and advocates for renters in these situations, but they were simply overwhelmed by the volume of requests.

Their solution was to outwork the problem, but it wasn’t working.

When we began conversations to develop their Strategic Plan, they were obviously laser-focused on solving their immediate challenge. I however was focused on uncovering and addressing the root causes, or factors that were causing the problem.

Two factors quickly became apparent:

  • The GHC team had limited resources (only two inspectors) to service an increasing number of calls
  • Tenants were uneducated regarding their rights, which put them in easily avoidable situations

This lack of tenant education around their renter’s rights was the primary root cause of the problem. If tenants knew what to check before signing a lease, and also what the landlord was legally responsible for, they would be empowered to make better decisions on their own.

That would not only fulfil an aspect of GHC’s mission, but allow the organization to focus their efforts on the more severe cases that required outside help.

So, we made an app for that!

Thanks to increasing affordability of cell phones, virtually all households have one. I suggested GHC develop an app to teach renters their rights, and also perform some basic elements of a rental property inspection.

With simple Yes/No prompts through an app, GHC could literally put their home inspector’s knowledge into anyone’s hands.

This would empower tenants to take ownership of their housing situation, which strongly aligns with GHC’s mission and values. It also frees up a lot of time to advance their mission further.

Everyone at GHC expects the app to dramatically reduce the number of home inspection requests, while also freeing-up home inspectors to visit properties where their expertise is desperately needed.

GHC is excited to showcase their app at the Affordable Housing Summit, where they’ll be positioned as industry innovators for creating a simple solution to a devastating, widespread national problem.

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