Part 1: Legal/policy protections
In order to conduct the legal protections analysis, first establish categories for legal protections. We recommend the following, but this can be adjusted for the local landscape: direct displacement prevention, indirect displacement prevention, and displacement response, and guiding lines of inquiry for each:
- For direct displacement prevention: What protections exist to protect residents from direct displacement?
- For indirect displacement prevention: What protections exist to protect residents from indirect displacement (conditions that might make their living situation untenable such that they would feel the need to leave)?
- For displacement response: What mechanisms are in place to respond when occupants are forced by circumstances to leave their current living situation?
We created categories of analysis to guide research on the relationship between each tenure and the degree of their legal protectedness.
For direct displacement prevention, these categories can include:
- Protections from being displaced – for unsubsidized rental tenures, whether a unit is covered by Just Cause for Evictions (JCE) protections.
- Price controls – for unsubsidized rental tenures, whether a unit is covered by rent stabilization.
- Dispute management support / internal governance – for unsubsidized rental tenures, whether or not a unit is covered by the Rent Adjustment Program (RAP) to address disputes between tenants and property owners.
- Financial support – whether or not a unit is eligible for some emergency displacement prevention (rental or foreclosure assistance).
- Conversion regulations – whether or not there are restrictions on the unit converting to another use (thus displacing occupants.
Within the indirect displacement prevention question, categories can include:
- Harassment protections
- Right to repairs or habitability
The displacement response question focused on whether or not the unit would be eligible for existing stipulated relocation benefits in the event of displacement.
In order to map out these protections for each of tenure types, desk research and interviews with housing advocates will be needed. Cast a wide net in terms of sources for information on tenure-specific legal protections. We cannot underscore the importance of local knowledge and context for this type of analysis enough, especially for city, county and regional analyses in states with strong home rule.
In addition to interviews with advocates, online advocacy resources available and grey literature sources provide guidance. This includes existing data from national advocacy organizations, such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition, as some protections (and gaps in protections) are shared across local contexts.
Media features and reports were particularly useful for understanding emerging housing issues, particularly in relation to the informal and homeless category. Public communications from local officials and advocates can be critical, especially for understanding informality, homelessness and other emerging issues.
The end result will be a large spreadsheet with highly detailed answers for each question. Recognize that some cells may remain blank or vague, as complete information is likely impossible. See the Oakland case study for an example.
Part 2: Advocacy Landscape
Protection is only as good as one’s knowledge of their rights, the ability to enforce them, and institutional and political support to maintain these rights. For each tenure, examine two key questions:
- Who does occupant go to if they have a housing issue?
- Who is fighting to improve the rights of this tenure?
This analysis should be conducted in parallel to the legal protections analysis, as assessment of legal protections will frequently generate insights into the advocacy landscape, including discussions of potential reforms and the key actors and institutions agitating for such change. In many cases, interview participants from as early as step 1 will be directly part of the advocacy landscape.
As we did in Oakland, initial findings in this aspect can be added to the same spreadsheet, in order to ensure the same detailed level of tenure-by-tenure analysis.
HVA is flexible, and in the future we hope to provide guidance and examples along three lines of expanded analysis:
Financial risk analysis. More than ever, housing is an important financial asset — and not only for the resident. Increasingly complex forms of housing lending and investment (including mortgage-backed securitization and the rise of institutional property investors) create new relationships between tenants, owners, and investors that come with new risks, ranging from predatory lending and foreclosure to potentially problematic tenant-landlord relationships. Insurance affordability and availability is a growing issue as climate change increases the vulnerability of housing to hurricanes, floods, and fire. The potential for rising costs — like property taxes — and declining subsidies — including state and federal voucher programs — put different types of tenures at heightened degrees of vulnerability. All of these dynamics can transform the security and affordability of housing. Financial risk analysis focuses on the affordability and financial security of tenures, with an emphasis on:
- Subsidies — to what extent is each tenure subsidized? Are these subsidies secure over the near and long terms?
- Ownership and Control — how is the ownership of the home structured? Are institutional investors, real estate investment trusts, or absentee landlords involved in the ownership and finance of the property?
- Lending—how is the home financed? Are predatory (e.g. subprime) or problematic (e.g. reverse mortgage) lending practices prominent in a neighborhood area or in relation to a specific tenure tye?
- Disasters—are insurance costs affordable? Are there mechanisms in place to finance hazard mitigation and recovery for every tenure?
- Property tax and HOA costs—to what extent do these costs pose a direct or indirect affordability risk to tenants?
Environmental risk analysis. Climate change is inceasingly the vulnerability of cities and neighborhoods to a range of perils, from floods to fire. While existing hazard vulnerability analysis typically consider the vulnerability of the physical housing stock, the tenure of residents is rarely examined. This is problematic, because resident vulnerability to pre-event and post-event displacement is closely linked to tenure. Access to program resources (like post-disaster recovering funding) and protections are explicitly structured by tenure, for example. Environmental risk analysis combines existing spatial analysis and hazard mitigation planning to consider tenure-linked vulnerabilities:
- Pre-event displacement — are there unintended affordability or tenure security consequences associated with mandatory building retrofits to mitigate hazards, or with insurance costs?
- Post-event displacement — are there gaps in the availability of post-disaster housing recovery funding, or in terms of the legal rights of tenants to return to homes that require repairs?
- Exposure to pollutants — are there neighborhoods with elevated exposure to indoor or outdoor pollutants, and tenure gaps within programs designed to mitigate exposure?
Community or demographic risk analysis. We know that issues of race, class, age, disability, LGBTQ+ status, and immigration status can stratify housing access and security. This line of analysis extends the above questions of housing vulnerability to explicitly consider how and why specific people and specific communities are at higher risk, and how these vulnerabilities might be mitigated.
Contact us if you would like to get involved in the development these aspects of HVA.