Bad Landlord? These Coders Are Here to Help

Luis Ferré-Sadurní in the New York Times: “When Dan Kass moved to New York City in 2013 after graduating from college in Boston, his introduction to the city was one that many New Yorkers are all too familiar with: a bad landlord….

Examples include an app called Heatseek, created by students at a coding academy, that allows tenants to record and report the temperature in their homes to ensure that landlords don’t skimp on the heat. There’s also the Displacement Alert Project, built by a coalition of affordable housing groups, that maps out buildings and neighborhoods at risk of displacement.

Now, many of these civic coders are trying to band together and formalize a community.

For more than a year, Mr. Kass and other housing-data wonks have met each month at a shared work space in Brooklyn to exchange ideas about projects and talk about data sets over beer and snacks. Some come from prominent housing advocacy groups; others work unrelated day jobs. They informally call themselves the Housing Data Coalition.

“The real estate industry has many more programmers, many more developers, many more technical tools at their disposal,” said Ziggy Mintz, 30, a computer programmer who is part of the coalition. “It never quite seems fair that the tenant side of the equation doesn’t have the same tools.”

“Our collaboration is a counteracting force to that,” said Lucy Block, a research and policy associate at the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, the group behind the Displacement Alert Project. “We are trying to build the capacity to fight the displacement of low-income people in the city.”

This week, Mr. Kass and his team at, a nonprofit technology start-up, launched a new database for tenants that was built off ideas raised during those monthly meetings.

The tool, called Who Owns What, allows tenants to punch in an address and look up other buildings associated with the landlord or management company. It might sound inconsequential, but the tool goes a long way in piercing the veil of secrecy that shrouds the portfolios of landlords….(More)”.