These activists are hacking housing problems in NYC using apps and data

Affordable and humane housing is one of the most prominent problems in America’s metropolises. While all manner of task forces and social activists continue to attack it, no one group has been universally successful at tackling it. However, a community of like-minded coders in New York City has banded together to at least to make life a little better, the New York Times reports.

These do-gooders informally identify as the Housing Data Coalition and consist of a variety of principled hacktivists who are building easy-to-use, intuitive tools that employ data as a weapon to combat illicit and unethical housing practices in a city that houses nearly 9 million people. They call their tools “civic technology” and employ their skills in service of the people, not the landlords who prey on vulnerable populations.

There’s Dan Kass, who moved to New York City in 2013 and found his apartment in Crown Heights not only had been rented illegally, but was nearly heatless and infested with vermin. He soon co-founded, along with friends Ashley Treni and George Clement, a nonprofit technology startup called, which launched apps that help tenants track disputes with landlords and navigate housing court, among others. The dashboard interface on the apps makes it easier for community organizers and legal aid attorneys to track problems like leaks, mold or rodent infestations.

Other examples emerging the app developers include an app called Heat Seek NYC, created by students at a coding academy in the city. Designed to collect information even if a user doesn’t have a high degree of tech literacy, the app uses a smartphone’s sensors to measure building and apartment temperatures, helping prove when landlords are skimping on the heat. (In increasingly frigid NYC, landlords are required by law to maintain temperatures of at least 55 degrees.)

Then there’s the Displacement Alert Project, an initiative of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a coalition of affordable housing groups. Their technology maps out buildings and neighborhoods at risk of displacement.

Many of the tools these activists are developing are designed to pierce the veil of secrecy that has protected the real estate moguls of America’s largest cities for decades. They identify the landlords that are speculative or even predatory in their practices and enables communities to organize against those malicious acts.

A recent initiative of grew out of monthly meetings at a shared workspace in Brooklyn where activists exchange ideas about how to make things better. The new tool is called Who Owns What and allows tenants to enter an address and look up other buildings associated with the landlord or management company.

The technology being developed under the umbrella of the Housing Data Coalition isn’t intended to replace more traditional activism such as canvassing or protests, but it does give tenants a better way of gathering and communicating evidence to make their case for fairness.

Emerging Tech

Face-scanning A.I. can help doctors spot unusual genetic disorders

Facial recognition can unlock your phone. Could it also be used to identify whether a person has a rare genetic disorder, based on their facial features? New research suggests it can.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers for 2019

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Smart Home

This Silicon Valley studio rents for $1,500 per month — to 2 cats

A man in San Jose, California, rents a studio apartment for $1,500 per month for a very important reason: So his daughter's two cats have a place to call their own. It may be the swankiest cat pad on the West Coast.

Amazon drops prices on Roomba robot vacuums by up to $150

Amazon is offering discounts on iRobot Roombas and other robot vacuums to help you get a leg-up on those chores. We've rounded up the best deals available now and put them all in one place.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Smart Home

Speed up cooking with one of the best pressure cookers on the market

Not all pressure cookers are created equally. You have to choose between stovetop cookers, multicookers, canners, and even microwave cookers. Our pressure cooking buyer's guide includes our picks for the best in each category.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Smart Home

This just in: Alexa can now deliver the news like a professional newscaster

The Amazon Alexa team has given Alexa a newscaster voice that improves the way she delivers the news and reads Wikipedia articles, making the smart assistant easier to understand.
Product Review

Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the simplest entry into a smarter doorway

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 may lack the style and sophistication of premium door-dingers, but few can match its simplicity and versatility. The device, available in both wired and wireless configurations, is easy to set up and adds instant…
Smart Home

Ring security camera catches man licking the doorbell for hours

A family in Salinas, California had their Ring camera capture something pretty unexpected: a man licking the doorbell outside of their home for more than three hours. The incident took place around 5:00 a.m.
Smart Home

GHSP makes a (back)splash with its touchscreen concept kitchen

One of the coolest concept kitchens from CES 2019 came from GHSP. It created a backsplash entirely made of touchscreens. That means the control panel for your kitchen is accessible no matter where you are.
Product Review

Kwikset Kevo Contemporary review

Tired of carrying around keys? Make keyless entry so easy that all you have to do is have your phone nearby to open the door. It’s a little pricey, but sleek lines and simple features make the Kwikset Kevo Contemporary a great choice for…