How AI Agents Can Help Fight Housing Discrimination

  1. Foreign language recognition. When it comes to machine learning, it’s all about the data. If important messages to respond to aren’t present in the data used to build the model, the virtual agent won’t be able to respond to those messages. We found that to be the case for foreign language messages, which only constituted 0.6% of our data (561 in 100K messages). To address this, we built in foreign language detection, together with the ability to disable the virtual agent and hand off the conversation to a real agent to handle.
  2. Affordable housing. We made sure to add support for inquiries about affordable housing, as well as least expensive apartments, by specifically annotating messages to identify when those intents are expressed in messages. Again, these kinds of messages only occur about 2% of the time in our dataset (see the figure below), but it’s important to be able to respond to them, especially given the economic uncertainties generated by the pandemic.
  3. Other ways to address bias, like fairness metrics and topic modeling. There are many other ways of tackling bias that will be explored in the future, including establishing explicit fairness metrics, and using machine learning to automatically identify major topics on the minds of renters over time. Addressing bias in virtual agents related to the leasing process is never finished, but we hope that some of the efforts so far have gotten the conversation going about this important topic.
Example of a conversation between a prospective renter and the virtual agent
Relative frequency of some inquiries supported by the virtual agent
Example of the virtual agent handing off conversation to real agent when foreign language detected
Example of the virtual agent responding to an inquiry about affordable housing
Visualization of 20 topics and their top relevant terms generated from 100 thousand renters’ messages



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James Chryssanthacopoulos

James Chryssanthacopoulos

I’m a data scientist passionate about building AI-driven software for industry