National Day of Civic Hacking: Focus on Affordable Housing



    Code for BTV was proud to make Burlington one of 35 cities celebrating this year's National Day of Civic Hacking in the U.S. This year’s event was focused on affordable housing and took place on Saturday, August 11, 2018. There were sixteen wonderful volunteers that attended the event. 

    As an organization, CfBTV strives to focus on issues of social and civic justice that are important and relevant to our community.  With an increasing disparity between wages earned and the cost of living for all residents of Vermont (see “Study: Affordable housing ‘out of reach’ for many Vermonters”), and with the gap being even greater for Burlington area residents, this issue hits close to home for many. So CfBTV decided to see what they could do.

    Three projects emerged out of their networking with people at local housing agencies. VHFA benefitted from the talents of software developer Nowell Strite and system designer Ans Bradford, who updated the code running the Vermont Rental Codes website. The rental codes website is used by both renters and landlords throughout the state as a crucial reference and guide to renting in Vermont. The updates ensured that the pages load faster, and also made some design improvements that increased the navigability of the website.

   Meanwhile, Josh Burke, an instructor at Burlington’s own local codecamp, BTV Code Academy, assisted VHFA with a different project, and improved the Vermont Resident Services Coordinator website. “National Day of Civic Hacking is a rare opportunity for developers with skills to meet organizations with needs and sprint towards solutions to real problems. The time constraints fuel a sense of urgency in achieving the goals of the organization, and motivate the participants to provide real value fast.” Josh is proud that not only did this website get some upgrades to improve accessibility, but the pages now also load faster.

   Another group of members tackled various issues for Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness. This diverse group included BTV Code Academy students, as well as local software developers, QA engineers, products managers and more. Christopher Griffin, a recent graduate of BTV Code Academy, says "As a new member of the Burlington developer community, the National Day of Civic Hacking was a great chance to get involved with projects in Vermont. I made connections with people who could give me some guidance and got hands-on experience. And there was food! A free meal was a great bonus."  Christina Hamilton adds “It was a privilege to help! Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition has struggled so long with antiquated technology. It was very gratifying to see how the upgrades to their software will make it easier for them to fulfill their mission. Even small changes can make a big difference.”