This season we again worked closely with our partners to install proprietary temperature sensors and offer technical expertise to assist low-income tenants in documenting when their landlords fail to provide adequate heat. Building off our pilot program last year and our summer of feedback, evaluation and research, our 2016-2017 program worked to concentrate our sensors in ways that would both 1) be as useful as possible to attorneys, organizers, and tenants; and 2) produce a useful data picture of landlord behavior in a particular way.

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Our focus

Certain buildings experiencing inadequate heat continue to elude the enforcement efforts of HPD and the advocacy efforts of attorneys and organizers. With the increasing risk around harassment and displacement, it is more important than ever to think about an integrated, strategic and comprehensive approach. Through sensor data, external data analysis, communication, and other strategies, Heat Seek will seek to connect advocates, HPD, government officials, and others, around certain problem buildings, and supply them with tools for proactive action. 

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In order to concentrate the impact of our limited quantity of temperature sensors, Heat Seek and our partners worked to develop a set of targeting criteria to be used in selecting buildings for sensor placement and collaboratively develop a list of buildings to receive sensors in the 2016-17 heating season. By focusing together on a select number of buildings, and coordinating both heat data monitoring and advocacy, we aimed to concentrate our impact on bad actor landlords, and ultimately, produce better outcomes for tenants who face a high risk of forced displacement. 


Heat Seek believes that its data can be used as a powerful tool to confront landlords who withhold essential services and/or attempt to force out tenants. We deepened our engagement in analysis of both temperature data and citywide data in an effort to provide new ways for advocates to target and reach at-risk tenants. The impact of data driven advocacy against bad actor landlords is amplified when partners are able to utilize a variety of existing data to affirm patterns of harassment, abuse, and landlord intention. In order for this data to be as useful as a tool to drive decision-making and action, Heat Seek must display and sort data in ways partners find intelligible and helpful.


Armed with this data, we believe public interest attorneys, community organizers, and even city officials can advocate on behalf of at-risk tenants, and better hold landlords accountable for their negligence and harassment. Heat Seek will continue to explore how to best connect attorneys, organizers, other advocates, HPD, and other city government officials, through sensor data, external data analysis, and other sources based on the evolving needs of our partners and the rapidly changing environment/landscape we are dealing with.

Our web-connected temperature sensors—essentially a thermometer connected to the internet—provide an affordable, reliable, and easy-to-use method of collecting, storing, and analyzing temperature data from a single apartment, many apartments, or even a portfolio of buildings throughout the city. We automate the entire process to provide tenants with the objective data they need to get their heat restored.

Heat Seek partners with public interest attorneys, community-based organizations, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the city agency that enforces NYC’s Housing Code. Rather than a stand-alone data solution, our work is grounded in a deep respect for community organizers and on-the-ground advocates, and we seek to contribute services that meaningfully support their work.

During the winter of 2015-2016, Heat Seek ran a pilot program in 50 buildings throughout four boroughs. For this pilot program, we sought out buildings with the following criteria: (1) an organized tenant association, (2) at a high risk for continued landlord abuse, as identified by our partners, and (3) stated willingness to bring a group case to housing court. Learn more about our work and see a map of participating buildings here.

How did we get here:

Over the summer of 2016, Heat Seek conducted focused interviews with a dozen key partners--attorneys, organizers, city officials--in order to understand their pain points in supporting and empowering tenants who experience abuse and harassment from their landlords. We've based our program this year on this feedback and our continued research and evaluation.