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City offers prize for tech solution to tenant harassment and mental health

Photo via Getty Images

BY GRANT LANCASTER

The mayor’s Chief Technology Officer is looking for tech-based solutions to housing discrimination and Latinx mental health problems in upper Manhattan, calling for applications from startups and tech companies worldwide to address the two problems.

Officials from the New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer will select up to two winners for each NYCx Co-Labs challenge, who will win up to $20,000 and get to pilot their technology in Inwood and Washington Heights for a year starting this fall, according to a press release from the office Wednesday.

The office will accept applications from Feb. 26 until April 7 and select a winner sometime this spring.

City officials identified tenant harassment and mental health care for Latinx teens as two of the biggest problems facing New York City today, according to the release.

Tenant harassment is especially pressing in communities affected by the affordable housing crisis, said Louise Carroll, Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Having a technological solution to connect tenants and keep them informed of their rights is vital, said Jackie Bray, director of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants.

“Making sure tenants have the information they need to band together to hold their landlords accountable is part of our job,” Bray said.

The other challenge has a similar goal – using technology to connect with an at-risk group – in this case Latinx teens.

In New York City, Latinx youth between 13 and 18 are especially at risk of mental health related deaths, with nearly 20% of this group reporting that they seriously considered suicide, according to the press release.

The challenge would have to provide a solution that engages and educates teens through technology and offers language accommodations to the largely Spanish-speaking audiences.

“Too often, mental health interventions, especially for vulnerable populations like youth, are top-down or diminish the importance of the specific cultural dimensions of the community,” said Ralph Vacca, assistant professor at Fordham University.

NYCx Co-Labs is a civic program managed by the Chief Technology Officer and the Economic Development Corporation that uses community building, open innovation and technical education to address problems of urban inequality in the city, according to the press release.

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