Featured Publications

Linking Landlords to Uncover Ownership Obscurity

Defining the ownership of rental housing can be a difficult task. In recent years there has been an increasing obscurity of ownership in administrative records as more property owners use Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) on deeds and in tax assessment records. In many cases, this obscures the nature and scale of ownership and makes research into property ownership, investors, and landlords more challenging. To overcome these challenges, we compare different text-matching methods within property tax assessment records in Boston, MA from 2004-2019. We show that the source of the difficulty in creating an accurate knowledge of landlords and their portfolios of properties has shifted in the past decade from the scale of data and the messy nature of administrative data to an intentional strategy of obscurity through LLCs. To do so, we incorporate linking to corporate records to uncover intentional ownership obscurity. We assess the prevalence of obscurity among landlords as well as the extent to which it is undermining our ability to observe patterns in rental housing in ways that cannot be accounted for solely with text-matching. These include how obscurity hides not only an increasing consolidation of property ownership in the past decade, but also concentrations of disorder and evictions. In doing so, we demonstrate a comprehensive method for uncovering this obscurity and show how this representation of property ownership can form the basis for understanding inequities in rental housing and the effects of property consolidation.

The Emergence and Evolution of Problematic Properties: Onset, Persistence, Aggravation, and Desistance

Objectives: Scholars and practitioners have paid increasing attention to problematic properties, but little is known about how they emerge and evolve. We examine four phenomena suggested by life-course theory that reflect stability and change in crime and disorder at properties: onset of issues; persistence of issues; aggravation to more serious types of issues; and desistance of issues. We sought to identify the frequency and dynamics of each. Methods: We analyze how residential parcels (similar to properties) in Boston, MA shifted between profiles of crime and disorder from 2011 to 2018. 911 dispatches and 311 requests provided six measures of physical disorder, social disorder, and violence for all parcels. K-means clustering placed each parcel into one of six profiles of crime and disorder for each year. Markov chains quantified how properties moved between profiles year-to-year. Results: Onset was relatively infrequent and more often manifested as disorder than violence. Pathways of aggravation led from less serious profiles to a mixture of violence and disorder. Desistance was more likely to occur as de-escalations along these pathways then complete cessation of issues. In neighborhoods with above-average crime, persistence was more prevalent whereas desistance less often culminated in cessation, even relative to local expectations. Conclusions: The results offer insights for further research and practice attentive to trends of crime and disorder at problematic properties. It especially speaks to the understanding of stability and change; the role of different types of disorder; and the toolkit needed for problem properties interventions.


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