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AI for Social Impact: GPT-4's Vision for Affordable Housing

This week I opted into Open AI's "ChatGPT Plus account" which for $20 a month unlocks access to GPT-4.


GPT-4 Tool Description

Within the tool itself, Open AI boasts that GPT-4 excels at tasks that require advanced reasoning, complex instruction understanding, and more creativity.


My head immediately went to how AI could be a catalyst for meaningful change.


Is it possible these advanced language models could help us navigate complex issues, inform decision-making, and become a powerful ally in addressing social issues?


This morning I decided to ask GPT-4 about homelessness.

"I need your help. Here in the United States there is a serious lack of affordable housing. Too many people are homeless. Another challenge is no one wants affordable housing in their backyard. People worry about the impact on their home values and neighborhood safety. What can we do help homeless people find affordable places to live?"


GPT-4 Answer (Initial Answer)

Addressing the issue of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in the United States requires a multi-faceted approach that involves government, non-profit organizations, and private sector partnerships. Here are some potential solutions to help homeless people find affordable places to live:

  1. Zoning changes: Advocate for zoning changes to allow for more diverse housing types, such as tiny homes, accessory dwelling units, and multi-family residences. This can help increase the supply of affordable housing options in various neighborhoods.

  2. Inclusionary housing policies: Encourage municipalities to adopt inclusionary housing policies, which require a certain percentage of new residential developments to be designated as affordable units for low-income households.

  3. Affordable Housing Trust Funds: Establish and fund Affordable Housing Trust Funds at the local, state, and federal levels. These funds could provide resources for acquiring land, building, and preserving affordable housing.

  4. Rental assistance programs: Expand rental assistance programs, such as Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), to help more low-income households afford market-rate rental units.

  5. Community Land Trusts (CLTs): Promote the establishment of CLTs, which acquire and hold land in trust to ensure that housing built on it remains affordable for future generations.

  6. Homelessness prevention programs: Invest in homelessness prevention programs, including emergency financial assistance, eviction prevention, and tenant counseling services, to help people maintain stable housing.

  7. Supportive housing: Expand the supply of supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with on-site support services to help residents maintain stability and achieve self-sufficiency.

  8. Encourage public-private partnerships: Foster partnerships between government entities, non-profit organizations, and private developers to finance and construct affordable housing projects.

  9. Address NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard): Develop public awareness campaigns to dispel myths about affordable housing and its impact on property values and neighborhood safety. Encourage community dialogue and involvement in the planning process.

  10. Housing First approach: Implement the Housing First approach, which prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life.

These solutions, when combined, can help create more affordable housing options and reduce homelessness in the United States. It is essential to involve all stakeholders, including policymakers, community members, and housing advocates, in order to create lasting and impactful change.


I wanted more details so I followed up with the prompt,

"Do you have any use cases or proof any of the above suggestions have been successful? "


GPT-4 Answer (Follow-up Answer)

Yes, there are several examples of successful implementation of the suggested strategies to address homelessness and lack of affordable housing:

  1. Zoning changes: In 2019, Minneapolis, Minnesota, passed the Minneapolis 2040 plan, which eliminated single-family zoning and allowed for the construction of multi-family homes in all residential areas. This change aimed to increase housing density and affordability across the city.

  2. Inclusionary housing policies: Montgomery County, Maryland, has had an inclusionary zoning policy called the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program since 1974. The program requires developers to include a certain percentage of affordable units in new housing developments. Over the years, the program has created thousands of affordable housing units.

  3. Affordable Housing Trust Funds: The National Housing Trust Fund (HTF), established in 2008, is a federal program aimed at increasing and preserving the supply of affordable housing for extremely low-income households, including homeless families. Several states and cities have also created their own housing trust funds.

  4. Rental assistance programs: The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) has been assisting low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled in affording decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market since the 1970s. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the program helps over 2 million households in the United States.

  5. Community Land Trusts (CLTs): The Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, Vermont, is a successful example of a CLT. Since its founding in 1984, it has created over 3,000 affordable homes, ensuring long-term affordability and community control of land and housing.

  6. Homelessness prevention programs: The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, provided $1.5 billion in funding to prevent homelessness and rapidly rehouse families experiencing homelessness. A study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that over 85% of HPRP participants remained stably housed two years after receiving assistance.

  7. Supportive housing: A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a Housing First approach to supportive housing in Seattle, Washington, significantly reduced homelessness and healthcare costs for people with severe alcohol problems.

  8. Public-private partnerships: The Denver Housing Authority has successfully collaborated with private developers to create mixed-income communities, such as Mariposa, which incorporates affordable and market-rate housing units with various amenities and community spaces.

  9. Addressing NIMBYism: In Portland, Oregon, a public awareness campaign called "Welcome Home" was launched in 2016 to address NIMBY attitudes and promote affordable housing developments. The campaign used storytelling and community engagement to dispel misconceptions about affordable housing.

  10. Housing First approach: Utah implemented a Housing First approach in the early 2000s and saw a significant reduction in chronic homelessness. Between 2005 and 2015, the state experienced a 91% decrease in chronic homelessness, according to the state's annual Comprehensive Report on Homelessness.

These examples demonstrate that the suggested strategies can be successful when implemented with strong support from government entities, private sector partners, and community stakeholders.


While acknowledging the ethical, legal, and security concerns that AI may introduce, it's essential to also recognize its potential to benefit society.


Additional Resources


Also, if you haven't seen the Open AI demo of the cool new features it's worth a watch especially for those who are more technical.

My favorite part was about 18 minutes into the demonstration, where you see how GPT-4 can turn a photograph of a hand written sketch into a website



As always, your feedback is welcome. Also, I would love to hear if you're using GPT-4 and what your experiences have been.



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