Website will help Portland renters find home with one application, one fee

Portland budget funding new rental website

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A Portland startup website is getting some big backing from the city.

Mayor Ted Wheeler outlined his proposed budget Monday, and in it includes $125,000 to launch OneAppOregon.com.

Imagine filling out one rental application and paying one fee to see every rental you qualify for, no matter your credit, past evictions or crimes.

A Portland man lived the nightmare, and now the city is banking on the lessons he learned.

"During that process I was evicted, my car was repossessed," said Tyrone Poole about his nine months of hospital visits after he massively tore ligaments in his leg while training in the fire academy.

It was so bad, he was on crutches for a year and a lingering inability to fight infection meant his dream career of being a firefighter was over. Soon, he was being kicked off friend's couches. The college graduate found himself in a YWCA homeless shelter.

He thought when he qualified for an affordable housing voucher that gave him free rent for a year. It would get him into an apartment within a week. How wrong he was. Just looking for a place to live with his restrictions, put him in a vicious cycle.

"I probably paid close to $500 in application fees. I'd say I was denied at least 10 times," Poole said. 

After four months of driving around, paying the fees and waiting, he finally found an apartment that accepted his big medical bills, no job and eviction history. Poole says the application fee cycle can cripple families.

"If it exceeds the time and money a family has, it's going to result in homelessness. It's an unnecessary homelessness. It's a homelessness that's caused by the process and that is a homelessness that is just ridiculous."

After his experience, Poole ended up founding NoAppFee.com. When it launches in Portland this fall, it'll be called OneAppOregon.com because it'll be specifically tailored to the Rose City.

"It'll be a game changer in the market for sure," Poole said. 

No driving around, pay one non-refundable $35 fee for a background check, fill out one application and up pops rental listings you qualify for. The ones that you don't qualify for, the site gives clear explanations why and how you could fix it. Your fee is valid for 90 days.

"This would be about 16,000 units within next 18 months," said Kurt Creager, director of the Portland Housing Bureau. He says OneAppOregon is worth the city's budget investment.

"Take a dozen applications, pick the highest credit score. That would be the logical thing for a landlord to do under the current circumstances. But the ability to level the playing field for folks who may not be the most bankable, highest net worth people, but who still desperately need housing, I think shows public value."

The site will launch this fall, and because it uses public money, it will start with a focus on affordable housing units, then expand out to everyone. Poole plans to take it national.

"I could house any family in a day regardless of rental barriers," says Poole. "For a renter, you would have to be nuts to play the guessing game if there's a tool that shows you everywhere you qualify for and doesn't charge you multiple application fees to do it."

For landlords, he says imagine only doing apartment tours for people who were already approved. There's no wasted time. The city says landlords are excited about the idea. However some property management companies have contracts with screening companies who are paid to provide background checks. 

© 2017 KGW-TV


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