Gabriel Friedman • UI/UX Designer

LotterEase: the NYC Rental Lottery App

New York City's rental lottery system offers residents the chance at below-market-rate apartments in new developments. But siloed information and complex requirements made the process frustrating.

During Zillow's Hack Week, a few of us decided to remedy the situation.

The Problem

Details of each lottery - the eligibility requirements, details about the development - were hidden in unsearchable PDFS and was no central search interface. Worse, the application process was decentralized, so renters had to track the progress of each application separately.

Better search experience

We hooked into NYC's Housing Connect API to populate a database with a proof-of-concept data set. We then built a form with only two inputs: income level and housing size, the most important two criteria in determining all eligibility.

Instead of having to manually parse multiple PDFs, renters could now see only those lotteries they were eligible for, in a friendly, well-understood card format, displaying the most relevant information: rent range, units remaining, and when they lottery opened and closed.

Better information design

In addition to being unsearchable, the PDF applications were hard to scan. Each had a its own design, the information was in different places, etc...

Our first concern in building the apartment page was clarity and consistency: we pulled out the most salient info - nearby transport, amenities, the often-arcane eligibility requirements the lottery, and offered clear calls-to-action: "apply" or "more info". The application process still had to go through Housing Connect, but we built a robust FAQ for each lottery that made it easier to get questions answered.

We also supported favoriting, so the already-difficult process of sorting and applying would be made a little easier.

Engagement and reminders

Winning a lottery apartment is a marathon, not a sprint, and those who finish the race need to be organized.

Since we knew our users' income and household data, and we knew lottery application deadlines, we could build customized emails not only alerting them to upcoming closings, but also new lotteries in the pipeline.

UPDATE: After our initial contact with the city, NYC Housing Connect redesigned the lottery search and application flow; it's now a user-friendly and (mostly!) painless process.

Gabriel Friedman • UI/UX Designer
© Copyright 2022