Creating a digital solution that reduces burdens for public housing tenants

Santa Clara County Housing Authority


Making rental assistance a little less complicated

Millions of low-income households in America receive rental assistance through the Section 8 housing program. But the experience for applicants and tenants can be burdensome, requiring extensive paperwork and ongoing visits to the housing authority. This can be particularly difficult for families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.

The Santa Clara Counting Housing Authority (SCCHA) wanted to do something about this. They asked Daylight and two capable partners to design and build a digital solution that would help people do far more on their phones and far less on paper and in the agency office. Daylight, Code Name Collective and Blackbird collaboratively designed and built an intuitive tool for people with varied accessibility needs and digital competencies.

The result is an effective product that helps everyday people in need and still works within a complex, heavily regulated government system. The app was launched in 2019 and has helped thousands of low-income individuals quickly accomplish tasks on their phones, while taking less time away from work and family. This has been particularly valuable during the 2020 Covid19 pandemic. The SCCHA app is providing a hopeful blueprint for housing authorities across the state and country seeking to digitize and streamline their experience and processes.

Tenants can now take care of required tasks, like documenting a new household member or change in income, straight from their phone.

Documents that previously required in-person visits to the government agency can now be captured and delivered digitally.

Designing with housing staff

Housing case workers manage huge caseloads. Their complex backend workflows involve detailed paper documentation and challenging enterprise software. By co-designing with housing staff, we were able to develop a digital tool that creates efficiencies for staff and integrates smoothly with existing work flows.

More Transparency, Less Admin Burden

"Did you receive my request?"

"When will it be processed?"

"How much rent do I have to pay?"

Housing staff spend a great deal of time attending to in-person and phone requests from tenants simply seeking status updates.

The digital tool proactively reassures tenants by sharing their status via a prominent headline. This reduces anxiety for tenants and means fewer status-check calls and visits for busy housing case workers.  

Scaling Impact

Building on the success of the tenant app, SCCHA, Daylight and collaborators are now working to provide similar digital simplicity for public housing waitlist applicants. The team is also exploring how other housing authorities may be able to leverage the technology.