With New Mapping App, A Wider Section 8 Housing Search

Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority was an organizer of the coding event. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]

A group of coders from Case Western Reserve University has created a digital mapping service aimed at giving low-income residents of Cuyahoga County more information about housing and an easier way to assess their options. 

The group of students, and computer science professor Soumya Ray, compiled publically available data from the census, the county housing authority, the Ohio department of education and other sites. They created an application that asks users which neighborhoods they like, then combs through the data they have for neighborhoods with similar attributes information including public transit, school data and internet connectivity.

One of the students, David Epstein, says the goal was to expand the geography of the housing search.

“People didn’t necessarily think in numbers. They’d start with a neighborhood maybe their cousin lives in, their friend lives in, that they knew and that would be the starting point of their search," says Epstein. "So how could we use something that they were familiar with, rather than a wall of numbers, to help recommend new neighborhoods maybe they hadn’t considered before?”

The web application Epstein helped come up with won 1st place at a hackathon over the weekend, organized by Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, DigitalC and Cleveland State University.

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