NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County forms new partnership with Housing Connector

October 26, 2023

Multnomah County, Ore. (Oct. 26, 2023) — Today Multnomah County is announcing a new partnership with Housing Connector to improve housing coordination efficiency, increase available housing inventory, and connect people currently experiencing homelessness to long term housing.

Property owners/managers interested in working with Housing Connector can contact

Housing affordability is a crisis in Multnomah County and communities across the country. Sharp increases in rent have a direct impact on rates of homelessness and are considered by experts to be a primary cause of housing instability. Oregon rents are among the highest in the country. These factors more severely impact people of color, who experience homelessness at a higher rate.

Finding and accessing units for Multnomah County residents experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity has proven difficult for both people seeking units on their own as well as for housing placement specialists. There are many property managers who have vacant units, but mechanisms to effectively reach these individuals are lacking. While the majority of non-profits providing services are under-staffed and under-resourced, Housing Connector’s scalable solution centralizes the coordination of individuals, service providers, and property owners - boosting their impact and outcomes.

Starting this month, Housing Connector has joined a group of service providers offering landlord engagement and recruitment support for the Joint Office of Homeless Services. The group — including culturally specific providers IRCO, New Narrative and Somali Empowerment Circle — is also supporting the Joint Office’s work rehousing people with state emergency funds. 

Housing Connector will be the central portal for landlords interested in joining those efforts, collecting and then connecting other providers to housing opportunities. Housing Connector brings its established platform and additional capacity to the County’s pilot programming that focuses housing resources on people without shelter. 

“As a policy maker, I monitor what’s working in cities across the country facing a similar homeless crisis,” said Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who advocated for a centralized landlord recruitment model and initiated the partnership conversation with Housing Connector. “Housing Connector has had success streamlining the process of connecting those experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity with units available for them right now. This is the kind of urgency our crisis demands, and it’s focused on a proven long-term solution based on a simple concept - make it easier to find housing for those experiencing homelessness and incentivize property owners to rent to them.” 

“We are in a crisis on our streets – and we know gaps in our systems are contributing to it,” said Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “Having better tools to collect data and make connections, like Housing Connector and HMIS, literally open doors for those experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. Our entire homelessness response system will be stronger because these connections are now easier, faster and more available, especially to those living unsheltered who don’t have another day to wait.”   

How Housing Connector Works

Founded in 2019 through a partnership with Zillow, Housing Connector is a “tech-for-good” non-profit organization that partners with property owners and managers to help fill vacant units while providing housing for those in need. Housing Connector was designed to ensure no home sits empty while there are people in need of a roof over their heads. 

“The housing shortage across the nation is deeply felt and seen in our neighborhoods,” describes Shkelqim Kelmendi, Executive Director of Housing Connector. “No apartment should sit vacant when people in our community need homes. Housing Connector is the bridge that connects empty units to families via a technology-based housing search platform. Over 5,500 people have attained housing through our program, which is fantastic - but we understand that accessing a home is not enough. That’s why we also provide stability and prevention services to help them maintain it. Solutions will take all of us and with commitments from both non-profit and for-profit partners, a more equitable and stable community, where no one is without a safe place to call home can be realized.” 

Housing Connector works with property owners to list vacant units on Zillow’s rental platform. In turn, Housing Connector will work with the Joint Office’s community partners, who provide case management for those experiencing homelessness, allowing them to easily search for housing inventory earmarked for their clients and place them in available properties. 

“Expanding Housing Connector to more communities is part of our effort to make housing more accessible and affordable for all,” said Samantha Holcomb, Senior Manager of Social Impact for Zillow and Housing Connector Board Chair. “We’re proud to offer tech that empowers case managers and their clients to connect more easily with a potential home. Thank you to Multnomah County for embracing another tool that can help change lives.”

By putting a search function for affordable housing at the fingertips of case managers, this partnership makes it easier for people who are without safe and stable housing to find a home. Properties that partner with Housing Connector agree to adjust or waive criteria (credit, rental history, etc.) that can often be a barrier for people experiencing homelessness in their search for a home. Once a client is matched to an available and affordable home, Housing Connector provides them with two years of guaranteed housing stability support. In exchange, property owners receive access to financial and mitigation support. 

Demonstrated Success and Local Support

Thousands of people previously experiencing homelessness have already been helped by this partnership in other jurisdictions, including Denver, Dallas, King and Pierce Counties in Washington. Of the people housed,  66% identify as BIPOC. Only 1% of provided housing ended in an eviction. The approach has also proven to be cost-effective. Placing people experiencing homelessness in a Housing Connector property is 90% less expensive than supporting individuals living unhoused.

"Housing Connector makes searching for a new unit for my clients easy and simple,” said Tonya Christmas, program manager, YWCA Seattle. “The reduced screening criteria allows me to find a private market unit that matches the needs of my clients. We want everyone to have the dignity of selecting their own new home and Housing Connector makes it so much easier." 

“Partnering with Housing Connector has been essential to achieve our mission of providing housing to all segments of our community, while positively impacting our bottom line with vacancies and collections loss reductions,” said Ben Maritz, CEO, Great Expectations. “Their inspiring vision and professionalism are a critical part of our region’s housing system. All housing providers should be part of this program. I am thrilled to now open our properties in Portland to Housing Connector.” 

“Multifamily NW is eagerly anticipating the launch of Housing Connector in Multnomah County and is looking forward to the opportunity to integrate housing providers into Housing Connector's distinctive and innovative model,” said Gary Fisher, Multifamily NW Deputy Executive Director. “This partnership will meaningfully address housing instability and contribute to our collective commitment to offering housing solutions to those in need.”

While the Pacific Northwest based Housing Connector is new to Multnomah County, they are already hiring and making connections to make sure local expertise informs the early phases of implementation.