Panel Paper: Regulating Landlords: Unintended Consequences for Poor Tenants

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8222 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Meredith Greif, Johns Hopkins University

This paper explores “hidden” ways by which cities may inadvertently undermine access to decent, stable, affordable housing—especially for vulnerable renter households—through regulations that sanction landlords for tenant activities on their property. In-depth semi-structured interviews and ethnographic observations with 57 small- and medium-sized landlords in Cleveland, followed over 28 months, show that perceptions of risk, flowing specifically from “nuisance” and water regulations that rendered landlords accountable for tenant activities over which they perceived little control, were common. To manage perceived precarity, landlords reported measures that undermined tenants’ housing security—including excessive screening, hassling, elevated rent amounts, proclivity to evict, and divestment from the lower end of the housing market whose stock continues to dwindle across many cities. City regulations—meant to bolster housing security, community vitality, and infrastructure—appear to be understudied factors that paradoxically reinforce problems of housing insecurity and community decline many vulnerable tenants, and cities, continue to face.