Colin Swords ’15 Brings His Tech Skills to Affordable Housing

Colin Swords ’15

Colin Swords ’15

This summer, Colin Swords ’15 used his technology skills to help people find permanent homes in Brunswick. He worked for Brunswick Housing Authority, which helps procure affordable housing for Mainers.

Swords’s main project this summer was to create an intranet portal for BHA, so that all employees can easily access and share documents. He also worked on a mapping project using ArcGIS mapping software.

Swords became interested in this mapping project after attending a class on ArcGIS that was offered to summer fellowship participants. There, he talked with Bowdoin’s Environmental Studies Program Manager and GIS Analyst Eileen Johnson, who had started an ArcGIS project with students a few years ago to map the “most viable” lots in Brunswick for housing growth, Swords explained. Swords hopes that this mapping project will help the housing authority optimize its affordable developments’ locations in the future.

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The benefits of affordable housing extend beyond helping families transition from renting to home ownership, Swords said, to improving people’s financial security and quality of life. He described one potential BHA client who had a long commute to Brunswick from his current residence. The man calculated that he puts an extra $5,000 a year toward travel expenses. Being able to afford housing in Brunswick would not only eliminate these fees, but, as Swords points out, “if he works so close to home, he’ll have the opportunity to work overtime, make more money, and it [won’t] take away time from his family.”

In addition to his intranet and mapping projects, Swords observed meetings with banks and potential buyers and made a slide advertisement for public access TV to attract potential home buyers. He also helped the housing authority switch from one financial reporting software to another.

Swords, a computer science and math double major, worked with social media marketing in a previous job he had with Bowdoin’s Interactive Media Group. He said he wants to augment BHA’s social media impact. “I’m hoping I can [give the housing authority] different ways to utilize their new Facebook page,” he said. “I think it could be a good [platform] for them to sell these homes.”

Swords’s internship is funded by one of Bowdoin’s Community Matters in Maine Fellowships. Though he remains unsure of his career path after college, Swords is grateful for the opportunity to “spend my summer seeing different ways that I can apply what I’m studying – not just to a job, but to a job that can make a difference.”

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