Zillow pledges $5 million to combat homelessness

KING 5's Heather Graf reports.

If rents in Seattle increased five percent, Zillow says an additional 258 people would fall into homelessness. In Los Angeles, Zillow says the numbers are even worse: a five percent rent increase would add 2,000 people to the homeless population.

The Seattle-based company says its own research has highlighted the relationship between rising rents and increased homelessness. Across the country, Zillow says incomes haven't kept up with housing costs, leaving a lot of people just one rent increase or job loss away from losing their homes.

So to help address the issue of housing insecurity, the Zillow Group is now putting its real estate expertise to work in a different way.

The Home Project announced on Thursday is the company's first-ever social impact program.  It seeks to help people not only find homes, but keep them.

"So Zillow is investing $5 million over the next five years to address the issue of housing insecurity," said Jennifer Butler with Zillow Group.  "And in addition to the philanthropy, we are really excited to provide in-kind support.  It's a company-wide effort."

Butler says it just felt like the right fit for Zillow Group.

"As a technology company in the real estate space, we are uniquely positioned to address this issue," she said.  "We come to work every day helping people find a home and we want to make sure we're helping everyone find a home."

Zillow Group will partner with local nonprofit organizations in each city where they have offices.  That includes Seattle and seven other locations across the country.  

Butler said the goal is to work closely with those organizations, to support people who are vulnerable to falling into housing insecurity and those who need help climbing out of it.

In Seattle, The Home Project's community partners have already been identified: Mary's Place, Downtown Emergency Services Center, and Seattle Housing Authority.

"We think this partnership between Zillow and Mary's Place is a perfect match," said Mary's Place Executive Director Marty Hartman.  "They have landlords, they have connections, they have resources to help people move into homes.  And our families - that is what every single family experiencing homelessness is wanting, a place to call home."

The partnership means Mary's Place will receive a $25,000 donation from Zillow as well in-kind donations in the form of product development, economic research, marketing support, and volunteer time.

"I think it's the best gift ever," said Hartman.  "It's the ability for our community to come together to solve this crisis and to love their neighbor."

© 2017 KING-TV


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