Marcy-Holmes looks to launch housing app and draw renters

A Manhattan developer has offered to build the app for $10,000.

by Benjamin Farniok

Finding housing might become easier for University of Minnesota students thanks to a local neighborhood group. 
Last week, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association leaders discussed plans to build a mobile website to give people better access to housing information. But the plan raised concerns among some board members.
The app — aimed at local students — would show where houses are up for rent around the neighborhood.
The planners also hope to let former residents review buildings where they lived and cite issues they had with the landlords or make other comments.
Marcus Mills, co-chair of MHNA’s Land Use & Development Committee, started looking for web developers in 2014 because he said renting spaces in the area can be time-consuming.
“Most renters don’t necessarily have the time. Many of them have long hours, 9-to-5 jobs or have more than one job,” Mills said.
He said while he was looking for housing in the area, he was forced to wander around the neighborhood and find places with rental signs or ask about housing by word-of-mouth.
At the meeting, Mills reintroduced the plan for the app and said he found a developer who would make the mobile website for $10,000, the original budget for the project.
The current candidates are from Chic Media, a Manhattan-based firm. However, because funding comes from Minneapolis’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program, MHNA must first request proposals from local website and mobile developers.
The Chic Media proposal states the app could probably launch in five to eight weeks.
Mills said it would have been more efficient to make a proposal request earlier so the plan could move ahead.
He also said he has spoken with local developers, but some weren’t attracted by the price or lacked the expertise to complete the project.
The idea for the app springs, in part, from one consultant’s review of the area’s housing, said MHNA Executive Director Melissa Bean.
The consultant said in his evaluation that the app would be beneficial by using public property record data regarding crime and inspections.
Recommendations from the consultant suggest the app could also be a check against housing owners who manage properties poorly, forcing them to cater to customer needs. Similar steps could be taken in other University neighborhoods, the evaluation said.
Chali Foge, a health service management junior, said she has been looking for a place to live this summer and had issues finding a place with Facebook because housing pages were too varied and unregulated. 
Foge said a rating system might help people find where they want to go by divorcing reviews from renters’ urge to attract renters.
“I think it wouldn’t hurt to see actual real opinions and experiences that other people have,” she said.