Unlock NYC 2022 Impact Report

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UNLOck nyc


impact Report

Dear friends, allies, community members, and supporters, In the fall of 2019, our founding team launched a chatbot to help New Yorkers learn about their rights and keep a paper trail when searching for housing with a voucher. As Unlock NYC approaches our third birthday, we are proud to say: We're in more rooms. In 2022 alone, our team members have met with the Mayor, Chief Housing Officer, and other City officials to elevate the issue of source of income discrimination in this administration. We've trained staff from over 75 organizations in how to use Unlock NYC's tools, and our work and leaders have been featured in The New York Times, City Limits, and more. We're growing our power. Over 300 New Yorkers have used Unlock NYC's tools to send 700+ reports of discrimination across the city. By speaking up together, we have secured dozens of housing opportunities, published a game-changing policy report, and connected tenants to each other and to attorneys dedicated to fighting back against bad actors. We're mobilizing more resources. This time last year, we had less than one month of funding in our bank account. Today, we are on track to surpass $1,000,000 in total funds raised by mid2023. Our fundraising push over the past year enables us to plan ahead, grow citywide, and provide stable, and fulfilling employment opportunities for our team. We're opening more doors. By expanding our outreach team and co-founding a volunteer-based Housing Search Support program, over 100 users have received 1-on-1 advice and advocacy during their search, assistance reporting discrimination, and apartment matches. We welcome you to read our first-ever Annual Impact Report to see for yourself. Have feedback or ideas for us? Our door is always open. Onward, Unlock NYC

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What We’re Up Against What We’re Doing Mobile Tools Data & Advocacy Leadership Development Our Team Where We’re Headed Financials And Supporters

What we're up against I had a voucher for ten years before learning that discrimination is illegal – getting turned down or ghosted felt like a routine part of life. – Elizabeth, Unlock NYC

Unlock NYC 2022 Impact Report

Discrimination against housing vouchers is the most common form of illegal housing bias in New York City. Known as "source of income discrimination," this practice by landlords, brokers, and management companies denies thousands of New Yorkers their fair housing rights. In fact, as many as 80% of New Yorkers with rental assistance can't find any landlord that will accept their voucher. When renters can't find housing with their voucher, they are more likely to: Become homeless (or stay homeless longer) Remain in unsafe living conditions, such as toxic mold, overcrowding, or domestic violence. Experience physical and mental health impacts of discrimination and toxic stress. End up being displaced from their home neighborhood or being forced to leave NYC altogether. 4

What we're doing Unlock nyc "With Unlock I feel the most supported I have felt in years."

“Will send a pic when I finally unlock my door! Thanks for all your help.”

“[Unlock NYC] made me feel like my own words actually matter.”

At Unlock NYC, we create fair, effective, and accountable housing searches by designing user-friendly tools so that New Yorkers with rental assistance vouchers can protect their right to a home. OUR PROGRAMS:

Mobile tools for a fairer search Data and advocacy Leadership development 5

About us

mobile tools for a fairer search Our chatbot helps New Yorkers record phone calls and create a paper trail when landlords discriminate. We connect them to government agencies and other resources so they can exercise their rights and find housing. PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT: Recording and reporting chatbot Launched January 1, 2021, we designed our free web-based chatbot in partnership with voucher-holding New Yorkers, grassroots organizations like Neighbors Together, and the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Highlights: 1,300+ reports in our database 300+ voucher holders directly supported 1,000+ views of know your rights content

“[Unlock NYC] made me feel like my own words actually matter.” – Unlock NYC user Fall 2021

Unlock NYC Impact 2022 Report


Unlock NYC reports received by quarter 200






Q3 2021






Data source: Unlock NYC Reports Database

32% AVERAGE REPORT VOLUME GROWTH PER QUARTER Through word of mouth and partnerships with nonprofits and housing specialists around the city, Unlock NYC currently fields 60-90 discrimination reports every month. We plan to reach 300+ reports per month by the end of 2023.

100+ 1-ON-1 USER CONSULTATIONS In 2022, we hired our Head of Outreach to provide 1-on-1 user support, facilitate small group workshops, and coordinate programs Unlock participates in such as the Housing Search Support program "buddy system" and a coalition to match users with available apartments. This role has become an invaluable part of our model. As one user recently reflected, "With Unlock, I feel the most supported I have felt in years."

Record It. Report It!, our main know your rights tool, has been downloaded 1,000+ times


Jessica, our Head of Communications, cofacilitating a fair housing workshop with Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE)


Unlock NYC has trained staff from over 75 organizations about source of income discrimination. In 2022, we tested a program to help housing specialists and advocates use our tools with their clients. Based on feedback, we will expand this program in 2023 with improved mobile features for housing specialists to report on behalf of clients and view report outcomes across their caseload. Mobile tools

data & advocacy Our data and participatory action research enable advocates, attorneys, and policymakers to understand trends, develop policies that protect tenants, and open doors for more New Yorkers. PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: An Illusion of Choice In February 2022, we released our first data-driven report in collaboration with Neighbors Together, the Housing Data Collective, and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. Highlights: Over 500 incidents analyzed from our SOI discrimination database 1000+ report downloads "Ghosting" was found to be the topreported tactic used by brokers to deny housing to tenants with vouchers

“You’re stuck with these voucher amounts, and most people I’ve seen are going back to the same neighborhoods that were racially divided and redlined.” -Fannie Lou Diane, Fall 2021 Unlock NYC Impact 2022 Report


Get the Scoop on Unlock NYC

Media outlets Unlock NYC appeared in 2022

NYC's 2022 Housing Blueprint The report, together with the advocacy efforts of our Leadership Collective members, has played an imperative role in shaping NYC's Housing Blueprint for 2022. The report highlights source of income discrimination as one of the primary barriers that will need to be addressed in the administration's housing plan (p. 52-53).

Since launching in February 2022, "An Illusion of Choice" has been cited more than 10x by policymakers, advocates, and journalists. Our team members have also been interviewed by the New York Times, City Limits, and AM news, as well as featured on Hear Our Voices, a podcast focused on sharing stories and resources for families at risk or facing homelessness.

Mayor Adams and Chief Housing Officer, Jessica Katz at the launch of NYC Housing Blueprint.

#1000 Downloads "An Illusion of Choice: How Source of Income Discrimination and Voucher Policies Perpetuate Housing Inequality", has been viewed over 1000+ times on weunlock.nyc.


Data and Advocacy

Leadership development Unlock NYC has a robust and unique leadership pipeline dedicated to identifying potential leaders from our user base, providing support, mentorship, and training, and creating opportunities to lead in both our governance and day-to-day operations. By positioning voucher holders as trusted experts in this work, we aim to challenge perceptions and shift power in both nonprofit and policy spaces.

PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT: Leadership Collective In 2020, we launched the Unlock NYC Leadership Collective, a governing board 100% made up of New Yorkers who have been directly impacted by source of income discrimination. The "LC" is a key part of designing a governance structure that reflects our shared values, which include user-led decision making, consensus-building, and community accountability.

Program highlights: 8 total members 4 cohorts since fall 2020 1 in 3 Leadership Collective members have taken on staff or consulting roles at Unlock NYC Expertise in Section 8, FHEPS, CityFHEPS, EHV vouchers

"My greatest highlight of being [in the] LC is sharing ideas and building a community of women working to dismantle systems of oppression in housing." Founding members of the Leadership Collective meet virtually in early 2021.

Unlock NYC Impact 2022 Report

-Fannie Lou Diane, Fall 2021 10

FELLOWSHIPS & RESIDENCIES We support our team to apply for fellowships to recognize their leadership and advance their networks, like the City Fellowship (Jessica Valencia, 2022 awardee) and The David Prize (Fannie Lou Diane, 2022 Finalist). We also host Activist/Researchers-in-Residence at Unlock (Kamilah Newton, 2022). Jessica Valencia, a 2022 City Fellow, pitches Unlock NYC at Company Ventures

POLICY ADVISORY & CONSULTING We amplify the expertise and policy recommendations of team members impacted by housing discrimination. In 2022, Fannie Lou Diane and Elizabeth Byrd contributed to the Housing Our Neighbors blueprint for NYC via a series of roundtables at City Hall with impacted advocates. Elizabeth Byrd and Fannie Lou Diane at a press conference hosted by Mayor Adams and Jessica Katz


Head of Outreach Leslie Meadows contributed to a widely-discussed article in City Limits about administrative hurdles faced by voucher holders.


Our leaders with lived experience of voucher discrimination have recently appeared in panel discussions with the NY State Division of Human Rights and Funders for Housing and Opportunity (FHO), and been quoted in press outlets including The New York Times, City Limits, and more.

Leadership Development

Our TEAM We are building a strong, cohesive, and tightknit team that has the support we need to thrive professionally and personally. At Unlock NYC, we're always on the move – whether hitting the streets citywide for canvassing campaigns, brainstorming new data project ideas with our grassroots partners, or fundraising to ensure that our staff reflects the diversity of New Yorkers who face voucher discrimination. Our goal is to set the standard as a workplace that centers lived experience and lives our values of a more equitable future. We create pathways for leadership, financial health, housing security, and professional growth for our incredible team of women leaders.

In 2022, we focused on creating our vision for the Unlock work experience. This included: Designing a Fair Compensation Proposal that provides a blueprint for equitably and fully resourcing our team as we hire more staff. Starting a team Emergency Fund, distributing $2,462 to 5 team members to offset the impact of unexpected personal expenses. Kicked off our Unlock NYC Internship Program, bringing on 5 CUNY students in summer and fall.

Left to right: Prity Khatun, Elizabeth Byrd, Manon Vergerio, Ashley Eberhart,our "Junior Head of Outreach" Makayla, Vi Gallage Dona, Leslie Meadows, Jessica Valencia, Fannie Lou Diane, and Kalin Chang at our 2022 strategy retreat.

Unlock NYC Impact 2022 Report






NYC boroughs represented

of our team identify as women of color




collective years of direct experience navigating the voucher system

languages spoken

Where we're headed In August 2022, the Unlock NYC team gathered for a 3-day Strategy Week to plan our upcoming year. Our fiscal year 2023 rallying cry, "Big Fish, Big Splash," is keeping us focused on diving deep into how our tools and skills can make the biggest difference and contribute to a tipping point in the movement for fair housing. Within this theme, we have identified four team-wide strategic goals for the year ahead:


Hold 100% of our "repeat offender" brokers accountable.

As a prospective tenant's first point of contact, brokers play a major role in "gatekeeping," on behalf of the landlords they represent. In 2023, we will ensure that every broker who's been reported by Unlock NYC users multiple times faces at least one meaningful consequence.


Contribute to two major policy wins for voucher holders.

We will use our data, research, and analysis in coalition with Housing Justice for All and other advocacy partners to support the fights to pass the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP) and to fully fund the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Unlock NYC Impact 2022 Report



Increase the share of users who feel a sense of justice from reporting.

Housing discrimination can take a heavy toll on mental health and overall wellbeing. In 2023, we will work with our users to assess their experience with Unlock NYC and the agencies we refer reports to, and increase the share of people who report that working with us led to an outcome that felt transformative.

4 Get our operations in tip-top shape. As we grow, our operations need to grow with us! In 2023, we will create an audacious 3-year strategy with a sustainable revenue plan, build out our network of advisors, implement our signature participatory budgeting process, hire an operations assistant to build, streamline, and document our workflows, and develop conflict and feedback norms to support team health during a time of rapid change.


Where we're headed

Financial health In 2022, Unlock NYC successfully ran a $550,000, 2-year fundraising campaign, enabling our founding team to take the leap and make Unlock our full-time jobs. Special thanks to our program officers at the Robin Hood Foundation, Wells Fargo Housing Affordability Philanthropies, and Trinity Church Wall Street Philanthropies for your partnership in this effort and your advice along the journey. We also want to formally recognize the individual donors – friends, family, allies, and co-conspirators – who got us off the ground in 2021 during our crowdfunding campaign (pg. 19). You made this abundance possible by believing in us when we had less than $100 in the bank.

FY22 Financial Summary (10/1/21 to 9/30/22)

FY22 Revenue

Carryover (FY 2021)







FY22 Expenses


Total available funds (as of 10/1/22)


Revenue growth, 2020-2022 Revenue






FY 2020

Unlock NYC Impact 2022 Report

FY 2021

FY 2022 18

Grants $75,000 - $250,000

< $75,000

Individual donors Aaron Carr Abby Zan Alexander Zimmer Ali Jaffe Alicia B Andrew Strong Andria Thomas Ann Cibulskis Annick Pons-Guiraud Audrey Vincent Duval Ben Fuller-Googins Ben Zimmer Bernard Marescot Bobbie Pelham-Webb Brian Drolet Briane Cornish Bryan Sharkey Caroline Fay Céleste Vergerio Chantal Robert Chris Eberhart Christina Brown Christopher Hagan Ciera Dudley Cindy Frankenberry 19

Claire & James Claire Saint Girons Daniel Hung David Zimmer Devansh Pasumarty Dounia Lomri Elisabeth Farcot Elise Schuster Emily Hyland Emma Hodge Etienne Castelain Gabrie Swingler Georges Clement Georges Koepfler Helene Robert Jason Oscar Jeremy Handrup Jessica Valentino Jo Strouss Jon Goldman Jordan Hill Josh Tycko Joshua Dean Julie Pedtke Karl Cox

Lakshmi Balachandran Lily Kravetz Manissa Maharawal Marguerite Catillon Marie Delestre Marie Saint Girons Maristela Zell Mary Gerisch Melanie Bush Michel Castelain Michelle Porter Midori Yamamura Miguel Roldos Mike Casey Natalie Druce Nava Friedman Ollie Gillett Oriane Duval Paula Abrams Pierre Vergerio Pierre-Yves Castelain Quentin Bruneau Robert Golden Robert Robinson Ron and Liz Eberhart

Ronald Shiffman Rose Brewer Sam Rabiyah Samantha Cowles Samantha Cutler Samir Patel Sarina Dayal Shadi Bartsch Shaye Roseman Stephanie Rudolph Suzan Cibulskis Tess Sommer Tim Duval Tim Parsons Tonina Parrin Valentina Onorato Walter Cibulskis Wanjiku Ngare Young Sun Han Yovan Collado Zach Shurden + 39 anonymous donors

Financials and Supporters

special thanks Our first-ever Impact Report would not have been possible without our inventive, talented, and dedicated 2022 summer interns, generously sponsored by the City Fellowship at Company Ventures and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. We can't wait to see where you go from here!

Visual design Vibodha Gallage Dona Baruch College '25 Communications Design Intern

Data analysis Kalin Chang Baruch College '22 Program Evaluation Intern Miss Prity Khatun Queens College '22 Product Data and Operations Intern

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