Code for America Fellowship – Improving the Affordable Housing Application Process


The Code for America Community Fellowship in Santa Monica focused on improving the affordable housing application process.  From day one, it was clear to me it was a Service Design issue, that would not necessarily be ‘fixed’ by adding a technological product.

It is still ongoing. Here is the project and concepts so far.

Role Researcher and UX, Service Designer
From discovery to design, I conducted research and interviews, prototyped and tested

Tools Whiteboard, Post-its, Sketch, Google Slides

The issues are twofold:
1. Affordable housing application process with the City of Santa Monica’s Housing Authority is complex, not easy to understand, heavily reliant on an intense verification process, lacking education and human resources, as well as bogged down by an inundation of ineligible applications from those who don’t meet Section 8 eligibility requirements in the first place.

2. The community doesn’t know what ‘affordable housing’ means, what Housing Authority programs/services are available, what section 8 is, how it works, and who is eligible. They learn everything from their community, so rumors and incorrect information is continuously circulating. Lastly, the city website is not user-friendly, doesn’t have easy to find, clear information, but it’s the only resource available to the community.

Conceptual Solutions
Digital Products

  • Update content on Housing pages of Santa Monica’s website:
    • Improve  content with simple, clearer, transparent educational content about the services and Section 8 process
  • Quiz: “Am I Eligible for Section 8?” OR “What services would I be eligible for?” specific to SMHA
    • Clearly show if someone is eligible for section 8 and/or what other services people may be eligible for
    • Could be used to filter applicants who are applying to section 8, decreasing the thousands of applications that are not local, ineligible, or have no prioritizing “preferences”

Physical Products

  • Hold workshop(s) to educate community leaders, residents, nonprofits, employees, about HA services
  • Update all printed resources with improved and clearer educational content


Click here for the slide deck of my work so far >

Section 8 Applicant's Journey Map
Section 8 Applicant’s Journey Map
Existing Service Blueprint
Existing Service Blueprint
Service Blueprint with 'Service Patches'
Service Blueprint with ‘Service Patches’


The fellowship is still ongoing…