Rey Faustino, founder of a Y Combinator and Google-backed non-profit called One Degree, found out first-hand what it’s like to search for housing after an eviction three years ago from the Mission District.
He had been working at a startup and had earned a grand total of $17,000 that year.
One of the avenues he tried was applying for income-tested affordable housing. Through that, he saw how complex the process was for working-class families. On average, families would fill out 40 different applications for various housing developments with complicated paper forms.
Now he’s trying to solve that stress with a simple online search engine for affordable housing in the Bay Area called One Home and eventually, a common online application that can work for multiple properties.
“If we can order car services on our phones or find the best pizza places online, we have to have a better way for families to find and access affordable housing,” he said last night at an event on family housing at Zendesk headquarters in San Francisco’s Mid-Market area. “We know that technology is not going to solve the housing crisis, but we can build the best-in-class technologies for marginalized communities to access housing.”
One Degree, the non-profit Faustino founded more than a year ago, is meant to be a Yelp-like directory for social and public services. He created One Degree after growing up in an immigrant family in Southern California that relied heavily on social services to pull themselves up economically.
But the issue in the United States is that public services are fragmented regionally and federally. Social workers have to know how to work the system and they have to be aware of the myriad kinds of programs and grants that a family or person can tap. Faustino wanted a search engine that would make it more efficient for both case workers and client families to know what was available.
Since launching, One Degree has served more than 55,000 unique visitors in the last year and is partnered with 600 non-profit professionals and case workers throughout the Bay Area.
But one of the most common requests he got from his users was that they wanted to apply for supportive or permanently affordable housing.
“We’d like to make applying for affordable housing as easy as buying a book on Amazon, so people can spend less time shuffling or stressing out about these applications and more time with their families,” he said. “In the long-term, we’d want to build toward an end-to-end solution for governmental agencies, housing developers and everyday people who are looking for safe and stable homes right now.”
With the search engine, clients can see the description of homes and eligibility requirements so they don’t have to directly travel to or call the place. OneHome is available in English and Spanish and on smartphones and tablets as well.