Making the Connection: Zillow’s Community Pillar Program

By United Way of King County Posted on September 22, 2015 In Fighting Homelessness

Tali Wee Zillow blogger

Tali Wee writes about finaces, home improvement and interior design for Zillow. Today, she is taking the time to talk about the housing crisis in our community and some of the ways Zillow is helping with the issue as well as some of United Way of King County’s solutions too. Read on to see where the two overlap.

The current housing market crisis affecting Americans most nationwide is the unaffordability of rent. As rents increase, competition for fairly-priced units increases and renters are forced to forgo other expenses to maintain their housing. Some of the first needs they pass on include necessary medical and dental check-ups. According to internal Zillow data, nearly one-third of rental households are living below the Federal Poverty Level.

Chart showing the national vacancy rate

Plus, rental vacancy rates are at their lowest since 1993 – at 7 percent. On average, rental housing on the West Coast offers even less inventory at 4.8 percent. This level of competition is aggressive for even renters with favorable applications. Renter applicants without stable employment or with poor credit scores have additional challenges when competing for the limited inventory. Even low-income renters who can afford units with housing vouchers and other subsidies have challenges competing in this market. Homeless applicants lacking housing references are set back further.

One program recently launched by Zillow is the Community Pillar Program, designed to connect renters experiencing application barriers with landlords and property managers willing to rent to them. Property managers and landlords open to modifying their standard screening criteria to consider tenants with potential rental obstacles can enroll in the program. They simply create a profile, check the Community Pillar box and receive a badge on their listing profiles. Badges signify their readiness to accommodate applicants with low credit scores, low incomes and lack of housing references or long-term employment. Community Pillars do not commit to any contractual obligations but their profiles are searchable by renters on Zillow.

As more landlords and property managers enroll in the Community Pillar program, it should become the go-to portal to connect low-income and homeless applicants with rental solutions. Partnerships to help spread awareness of this new program include non-profits and government organizations such as Community Solutions and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Movements toward improving the lives of the homeless are increasing. In fact, United Way of King County (UWKC) offers its own Companionship Program where each volunteer is paired with a recently housed, previously homeless client to build social skills. Volunteers commit to engaging with their clients for four hours each month during a period of six months. United Way is recruiting volunteers throughout September and beginning the Companionship Program training in October.

Although the rental market continues to be unaffordable for much of the country, the Community Pillar program should help ease the
struggle for applicants with typically undesirable rental circumstances. If you are a landlord, please join the others that are leading on this issue and participate in the Community Pillar program.

If you’re not a landlord, United Way still has a place for you to get involved! Because simple friendship can make all the difference for someone who is transitioning off the streets, they’re launching the Companionship Program. Volunteers are paired with a recently housed, previously homeless client to build social skills that will help with the transition.

Volunteers commit to engaging with their clients for four hours each month during a period of six months. The orientation to learn more about the program is set for October 7. Learn more.


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