The Lab @ DC
Stronger Evidence for a Stronger DC

How do we make homeowner assistance accessible for DC’s residents?

How do we make homeowner assistance accessible for DC’s residents?

Project Summary
The District of Columbia offers 36 programs to support current and prospective homeowners with renovations, minor upgrades, home purchase assistance, and tax relief. These programs are spread across eight agencies with no central point for residents to find them. DC is building a resident-friendly website where residents can learn about the homeowner assistance programs they’re eligible for and easily access the application materials. The City Administrator envisions this website as a personalized tool for every current and prospective homeowner in DC.

Why is this issue important in DC?
Without a central hub for District homeowner programs, residents are left to navigate on their own, and they may miss out on assistance they’re eligible to receive. In addition, government staff spend valuable time gathering the same information repeatedly in order to redirect residents to the appropriate programs.

A home renovated through the Single-Family Residential Rehabilitation Program. (Credit: Department of Housing and Community Development)

A home renovated through the Single-Family Residential Rehabilitation Program. (Credit: Department of Housing and Community Development)

What are we doing?
Together with District agencies and Deputy Mayor’s offices, we’re building an easy-to-use website called Front Door to help residents navigate homeowner assistance. They will be able to determine their eligibility for programs, read clear program descriptions, and access redesigned application forms all in one place. We’ll build the site using best practices in user-centered design and iterative web development.

Following the lessons learned from our user-centered design work on forms, residents will join in the website and form redesign process throughout. We’ll also track key performance indicators (e.g. the number of applications to homeowner programs and traffic on the website) to see how the site affects the way residents interact with homeowner assistance services.

What have we learned?
Through our Form-a-Palooza work we’ve learned that residents don’t look to their government to file a form. They look to government to help them achieve a goal. Our paperwork needs to match that. Mayor Bowser has now charged us with applying that same lesson to DC’s homeowner support programs.

What comes next?
Housing is a central focus for Mayor Bowser and Washingtonians. In May 2019, she signed an order with the bold goal of creating 36,000 new housing units by 2025. This project was named as one of the initiatives in service of this goal. The Front Door website will launch spring 2020.

In order to meet our growing housing needs and take on the forces of displacement, we need to be bold and implement an all eight wards strategy.
— Mayor Muriel Bowser