A new Zillow-powered search tool is helping place individuals and families experiencing homelessness into privately owned homes and apartments in the Seattle area.

In mid-February, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan and King County executive Dow Constantine unveiled the search tool, which helps match local nonprofit service providers and their clients with owners of affordable vacant rental units.

Borne out of Durkan’s Innovation Advisory Council, the tool was developed by a team of Zillow employees in partnership with the Seattle Office of Housing and local nonprofit Housing Connector as well as its network of service providers and property owners.

While a major challenge for case managers is searching for affordable housing for their clients, available units are now easily accessed through Zillow’s online listing platform. The search tool allows Housing Connector partner landlords to upload housing inventory, which the nonprofit service providers can see in real time.

Thirty-five Housing Connector landlords and 42 nonprofit service providers in Seattle and King County are active on the platform at the launch, with more expected to be added. In addition, the landlords have adjusted or waived criteria that would prevent those most in need from qualifying for the home.

“We are fortunate to live in one of the most innovative, talent-rich ecosystems anywhere on the planet—and for too long, our government has existed as if we have no relationship to it. I created the Innovation Advisory Council because we know that the challenges facing our region cannot be addressed by government alone,” said Durkan in a statement. “I am incredibly proud of the work that Zillow and the Housing Connector have done to make it easier for people experiencing homelessness to find affordable housing and for affordable housing providers to connect with those in need.”

A coalition of private and public partners launched the Housing Connector in 2019 to help private property owners and landlords easily rent to people experiencing homelessness. The city and county developed the initiative on the belief that leveraging existing private-market housing could reduce homelessness. It also provides free referrals to ready-to-rent residents and financial support to cover costs such as security deposits, damage mitigation funds, and unit hold fees.

To date, the Housing Connector has found homes for over 450 individuals and families experiencing homelessness. With the services and support of the Housing Connector, the formerly homeless clients referred by the organization are finding and moving into homes nearly 30% faster than renters facing similar barriers. The new Zillow search tool will help decrease that wait time even more.

“Our community desperately needs more affordable housing,” said Shkëlqim Kelmendi, Housing Connector’s executive director. “And while we’re working to build that housing, individuals experiencing homelessness can’t wait; they need a home today. Together with Zillow, we are thrilled to launch this new search tool to scale our impact and streamline how individuals access housing with reduced screening criteria, ultimately decreasing the time a unit sits vacant and the number of days a family must experience homelessness.”