As one of the largest non-profit providers of affordable housing in California, Jamboree is quite familiar with the challenges in accessing this valuable resource. Every day, our staff in our communities hear the frustration from applicants who are told that the community they choose from our website has a wait list of several years and hundreds of anxious applicants on a wait list.

Even before the current COVID crisis, the lack of affordable housing was a barrier to economic and housing stability for low income individual workers and their families. The recent National Low Income Coalition (NLIHC) Report, “Out of Reach: The high Cost of Housing 2020” documents this challenge. In Orange County, full time workers need to earn $42.62 per hour to afford a modest two- bedroom apartment. To afford this two- bedroom home, a worker needs 3.3 jobs at the minimum wage.

The report emphasizes “In no state, metropolitan area, or county in the U.S. can a worker earning the federal or prevailing state or local minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent by working a standard 40 hour work week.”

Given that the availability of the housing resource is limited, the additional navigation of opportunities adds to the frustration. Throughout the local area, it is almost impossible to know if a vacancy is available and if so, do you need to be a senior, a veteran, an individual, a family and what income do you need to qualify? It reminds me of going to see a new health care specialist where the first appointment always involved completing a lengthy application. Yet, you know that at least three of your current doctors have electronic answers to most of the questions and this information is available to them on-line at Hoag.

There are several technology models being explored for facilitating the access to housing and resources. The County of Orange is exploring a system like the Access Sonoma County utilizing IBM’s Watson and Artificial Intelligence to synchronize efforts between departments and coordinate responses. United Way recently utilized Amazon’s Web Services to facilitate applications for rental subsidies during the current Pandemic. Homeless providers are also attempting to determine a model for accessing available shelter beds.

Orange County technology and innovation providers – Can you create this solution? If eight hundred colleges and universities across the Country can utilize CommonApp for students applying for college with one application process, we can automate our housing application response. How soon can we say, “There’s an app for that!”