HUD creates online housing locator for disaster assistance

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has developed a Web-based National Housing Locator system to help state and public housing authorities and other first responders quickly identify the available housing during a disaster.The locator combines federal housing resources with three commercial apartment locators and housing Web sites to offer one platform that allows housing agency personnel and emergency responders immediately access available rental housing resources nationwide. HUD used housing information from various Internet and government data providers, such as SocialServ.com, Apartment.com, HomeSales.gov and Rent.com.“Our IT team worked across HUD program areas and incorporated feedback from multiple housing associations for nearly a year to incorporate the commercial search engines while building a user-friendly, nationwide system,” said Lisa Schlosser, HUD’s chief information officer.The locator allows users to set search criteria to locate available housing in a one-stop shopping environment. Search criteria include the desired location by city, area code, price range, acceptance of housing vouchers, accessibility, assisted and elderly accommodations, and number of bedrooms.Once the criteria are set, the locator conducts a rapid search nationwide with designated partners and displays the results about available housing in a report format. In most cases, the locator it also provides photos of housing and contact information.Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the government had an urgent need to house thousands of families nationwide, said Orlando Cabrera, assistant secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing. HUD tapped a number of commercial sites to supplement its search of government housing resources.“We now have put in place a comprehensive clearinghouse to help find people places to stay, thanks to the efforts of many, including various housing associations," he said.The system is available to states and public housing authorities, and other first responders. HUD may eventually open it to the general public.
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