Tech, Bias, and
Housing Initiative

Whether you are trying to buy a home, apply for a rental property, or you’re looking for a roommate, there are an endless number of brand new companies and digital products offering to help you do just that. They promise speed, efficiency, and a modern approach to slow and sometimes exclusionary rental or homeownership processes.

These new companies are venture-backed and digitally-enabled—and they play an increasingly influential role in the economy. From new modes of housing construction to automated home buying, tech-enabled companies promise to scale to massive market share and reap higher valuations along the way.

As unprecedented capital investment flows into this space, venture-backed companies’ winner-take-all approach to growth has the potential to exacerbate inequality in the housing space. Under these conditions, startups’ disruption mindset creates a risky landscape that could—without ethical frameworks and processes to ensure equitable outcomes—dramatically accelerate racial and economic inequities.

The Tech, Bias, and Housing Initiative examines these potential harms and biases through comprehensive research, corporate practice, and public policy advocacy.

What we know

What we know

the key takeaways from a year of research

Exclusionary Listings

Alternative financing pitfalls

Alternative paths to homeownership like rent-to-own echo discriminatory and predatory practices of the past.

Exclusionary Listings

Tech bias in screening

Algorithms used to determine who gets housing are opaque, predictive, and frequently based on inaccurate data.

Exclusionary Listings

Housing corporatization

Digital property management tools are enabling companies to acquire and manage vast portfolios of single-family properties, often optimizing profit at the renters’ expense.

Exclusionary Listings

Venture capital pressures

Proptech brings in venture capital, whose model pressures companies to sacrifice what’s in the best interest of renters and potential homeowners to provide maximum returns to investors.

What we can do

an ethical practice guide for proptech companies

Proptech companies can adopt business practices today that reduce (and even reverse) existing bias and inequity. The Ethical Practice Guide offers a framework to ensure their work helps end our housing crisis, not make it worse.

1. education

Implement a company-wide education program that highlights the history and context of housing inequity and explores the way your company fits into that story

2. testing

Utilize a data minimization framework and discrimination testing to proactively reduce harm and measure impact

3. employee engagement

Provide clear, actionable pathways for employees to raise ideas, concerns, and opportunities for improvement

4. transparency

Provide transparent and easy-to-understand information for users and customers

5. recourse

Provide opportunities for customers or stakeholders who feel like they’ve been harmed to seek recourse

6. community engagement

Engage in the broader societal conversation about housing—and use your position to advocate for change

Where we're going

the initiative focus for the coming years

policy advocacy

Working closely with partners from across the housing ecosystem, we’ll advance public policy that protects against the worst potential harms of Proptech. We’re starting by investigating tenant screening tools to understand whether and how they may result in discrimination. We’ll use this research to craft strategic, targeted policy solutions.

corporate practice

Over the course of our research we’ve connected with Proptech founders, executives, and employees who express a desire to develop better ethical practices as they grow their companies. We have outlined a practice guide that all Proptech companies can adopt to mitigate harm and we’ll provide resources and guidance to those that take action to implement it.

continued research

The Proptech sector is extremely fluid, and the market dynamics are changing quickly. We’ll continue to follow the space and produce reports as new areas of interest or concern emerge. We’re currently tracking the rise of crypto and blockchain in the Proptech sector and plan to release a briefing on the topic in mid-2023.

Our research

Read our research papers for a deeper dive