Press Release

CONTACT: | (212) 306-3322


Digital Vans – computer labs on wheels – bring technology directly to NYCHA communities that have limited or no access to internet services

Vans have served nearly 9,000 visitors since launching in 2014, connecting residents of all ages to educational and career opportunities, and much more

NEW YORK––The New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Digital Van initiative has received the National Award of Excellence from the National Association of Housing and Development Officials (NAHRO). NYCHA’s Digital Vans advance the NextGeneration NYCHA goal of modernizing how the Authority does business to improve quality of life and customer service for residents by providing residents with increased internet access and improved digital literacy through tutorials – both crucial in the 21st-century economy, as residents find information, do homework, apply for jobs, and communicate on the internet.

NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye said, “NYCHA is committed to creating more connected public housing communities – and the Digital Vans are moving us towards that goal by bringing Wi-Fi, online resources, and tutorials in technology directly to our developments. This award is a recognition of NYCHA’s efforts to improve customer service and economic opportunity for our residents through increased computer and internet access.”

Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Anne Roest said, "This award recognizes the agency's innovative Digital Van program that allows NYCHA residents to stay connected to their families and apply for jobs and benefits. It is a model that should be replicated across the country, and I look forward to its continued success."

The vans are equipped with eight laptops, a printer/scanner, wireless internet and an instructor, and visit 18 developments biweekly. Additionally, the vans provide internet access to residents who may own a digital device, but lack a wireless connection. Residents use the labs to apply for jobs, pay rent, and communicate with family. Digital Van staff also teach residents how to use a computer and software for the first time. The Vans also serve as mobile sites supporting online tenant recertification, registration for pre-k enrollment in collaboration with the Department of Education, and construction job fairs.

Residents have responded very positively to the Digital Vans and the services they offer. Nearly 9,000 customers have been served since NYCHA launched the Digital Van initiative in 2014—from seniors learning how to use a computer and opening email accounts, to children and teens doing research for their homework. One resident even earned a college degree using the Digital Van computers because she didn’t have access at home. Due to popular demand from residents, NYCHA introduced a third Digital Van in August, which is now actively assisting residents with internet access, computers, printers, and engaged staff.

Last year, NYCHA’s Digital Van initiative was a semifinalist for the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Innovations in American Government Award.

Previous Award-Winning Initiatives:

Earlier this year, NYCHA was recognized by the Middle Atlantic Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Development Officials (MARC-NAHRO) as a leader in Information Technology for its digital initiatives, including the Digital Vans, the MyNYCHA mobile app, and the NYCHA Self-Service Portal:

  • MyNYCHA – NYCHA's Mobile App: MyNYCHA is a free app that puts the repair process in residents’ hands by empowering them to create service requests 24/7. MyNYCHA, which works on mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets, can be used to manage work tickets, receive alerts for development outages, select times for repairs, and reschedule repair dates – reducing calls to NYCHA’s Customer Call Center (CCC) while connecting residents directly to services. A web version of the app was released for residents seeking to utilize MyNYCHA’s features from a computer in their homes, the library, or NYCHA’s Digital Vans. A Spanish-language feature has also been incorporated into both the app and web versions of the program. Since initially launching the MyNYCHA app last year, additional features have been added, including the ability to sign up for the NYCHA Journal and view the history of closed work orders. MyNYCHA has been downloaded roughly 30,000 times, and has been used to generate over 121,000 work orders.
  • NYCHA Self-Service Portal: As part of the New York City Housing Authority’s goal to enhance customer service, NYCHA launched a Self-Service Portal in 2013 – an internet-based site that allows applicants, Public Housing residents, and Section-8 voucher-holders to complete many transactions online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When first deployed, the site enabled residents to file Public Housing applications online, and gave Section 8 voucher holders the ability update their information online. As usage and demand expanded, NYCHA enhanced the Self-Service Portal, streamlining and simplifying many processes.

Upcoming Initiatives:

As NYCHA becomes a more efficient landlord, the Authority is taking steps to equip employees with digital tools that streamline workflow, enabling staff to spend less time on paperwork and more time assisting residents:

  • Mobile Workforce – NYCHA’s Handheld Maintenance Initiative: Digital technology also enables NYCHA employees to spend less time on paperwork and more time assisting residents. The Authority is currently piloting the use of a mobile app on Samsung Galaxy smartphones to better manage maintenance and repairs. Staff are assigned work tickets via the smartphones and can update and close work orders in real time. Full deployment of this mobile system is planned by the end of 2016.

NAHRO’s Awards recognize member agencies’ innovative housing and community development projects, programs, and services. These awards provide additional opportunities to inform the public of the best in housing and community development; and to create a resource bank of information on significant innovative activities performed by housing and redevelopment agencies and community development departments. Information from award recipients is also used to support NAHRO's positions at HUD and in Congress.

NYCHA will be presented with the award during NAHRO’s National Conference & Exhibition at the Closing Plenary Breakfast Session on Sunday, October 16, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.

Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the City Council Committee on Public Housing, said, “Access to technology and the internet is more crucial in today’s world than ever before and can drastically impact the lives of public housing tenants. NYCHA’s Digital Van Initiative has been bringing internet access to residents throughout the city and has become an essential asset to many housing developments. This award cements the positive work and outcomes of the Initiative. It is a model that should be expanded in NYC and adopted by public housing authorities across the country.”

Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the City Council Committee on Technology, said, “I congratulate NYCHA for their innovative and forward-thinking approach to expanding internet access throughout our communities,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Technology. “NYCHA richly deserves the National Award of Excellence for their efforts with digital vans. I look forward to the continued expansion and deployment of the vans throughout the City."


About New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA):
The New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) mission is to increase opportunities for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers by providing safe, affordable housing and facilitating access to social and community services. To that end, NYCHA administers a Conventional Public Housing Program as well as a citywide Section 8 Leased Housing Program in rental apartments, together serving more than 600,000 New Yorkers. Learn more at and on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, @NYCHA.


About National Association of Housing and Development Officials (NAHRO):
The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) is the leading housing and community development advocate for the provision of adequate and affordable housing and strong, viable communities for all Americans—particularly those with low- and moderate-incomes. For more information, visit