POSTED ON JUNE 2, 2010:
Look See for Free
New website helps low-income families seeking quicker access to affordable housing
Everybody Likes Free. TulsaHousingSearch.org is a Webbased service supported by a toll-free, bilingual call center that lets landlords advertise their properties for free, while potential renters can peruse the site in search of rentals that fit their specific needs.
Tulsans who are in search of an apartment or house to rent now have a valuable new tool at their disposal, thanks to a recently launched housing search website.
TulsaHousingSearch.org is a Web-based service supported by a toll-free, bilingual call center that lets landlords advertise their properties for free, while potential renters can peruse the site in search of rentals that fit their specific needs. The locator is a project of the city of Tulsa, the One Economy Corporation, the Tulsa Housing Authority and the Community Action Project of Tulsa County.
Dwain Midget, director of the city's Working in Neighborhoods Department, said this is the first time such a service has been offered in Tulsa.
"We've talked about it numerous times, but this is the first time we've been able to put something together," he said.
The idea of the service is to provide those looking for living accommodations with a way to access decent, safe, quality housing, while landlords can list their properties for free, Midget said. Prospective tenants are able to conduct an online search tailored to their needs, entering such criteria as access to medical facilities, public transit and schools. Searches also can be limited by rent amount, ZIP code, availability date and other factors, according to city officials. Midget described it as "one-stop shopping."
Properties listed on the site include a wide range of publicly assisted and private, scattered-site housing.
City officials expect the locator to be a big help to those looking for a place to live.
"Access to affordable housing is critical to our economy and to the health of our community," Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. stated in a press release announcing the initiative. "We believe this service will greatly assist Tulsans in locating the housing they need and encourage property owners to list available units and help make this site valuable to the community."
Midget believes the market for those looking for the kind of help the locator offers is sizable.
"With the economy like it is, some folks are having to scale down from owning a home to renting," he said. "There are a lot of folks new to the market who are not interested in owning a home and want to rent. This can help them find housing in any part of the city where they want to live. Otherwise, they have to scour the newspaper or just drive around, and that's not very efficient."
Midget said response to the site among landlords has been exceptional. It was launched in late April, though its presence wasn't immediately publicized while organizers worked the bugs out of the system. Even so, Midget said, the site quickly drew listings for about 200 properties -- a number that has grown to 300 now, after the city issued a press release announcing the site on May 21.
"I know folks in the industry are excited about it," he said. "We've had some pretty good feedback."
The locator soon will be a part of the Tulsa Beehive, an Internet gateway site designed to provide links to job services, resume building, insurance information, family and community education, and housing and financial management tools.
The Tulsa Beehive is a component of the Bring IT Home-Tulsa initiative, a partnership between the city and One Economy designed to make technology more readily available to low-income families. The goal of the program, which was launched in the fall of 2009, is to identify underserved areas of the city and provide free broadband service to about 700 households, along with access to affordable computers.
The bilingual aspect of the site's accompanying call center should help broaden the program's impact, Midget said.
"We are trying to provide for all our citizens in Tulsa," he said.
Midget said he doesn't know how many would-be tenants have accessed the locator yet, but he said his department is reaching out to social-service providers, churches and other groups to help them get the word out about TulsaHousingSearch.org.
TulsaHousingSearch.org is powered by Socialserve.com, a nonprofit organization that serves the affordable housing needs of communities. It is accessible online 24 hours a day. Those looking for property also can call the toll-free, bilingual call center for assistance at 1-877-428-8844 from 8am-7pm Monday through Friday.
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