Linking landlords to uncover ownership obscurity

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Identifying the ownership of rental properties has been a difficult but important step in understanding the current state of property consolidation. We show that the difficulty in linking landlords to their properties has shifted in the past decade from the messy nature of administrative data to ownership obscurity through corporate entities, like Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). To develop a method to overcome both of these challenges, we compare different text-matching methods within property tax assessment records in Boston, MA from 2004 to 2019. We assess the prevalence of obscurity among landlords as well as the extent to which it is undermining our ability to observe conditions of rental housing. These include how obscurity hides not only an increasing consolidation of property ownership in the past decade, but also concentrations of disorder and evictions. We demonstrate a comprehensive method for uncovering ownership obscurity and show how this can form the basis for understanding inequities in rental housing and the effects of housing financialization.




Hangen, F., & O’Brien, D. T. (2024). Linking landlords to uncover ownership obscurity. Housing Studies.

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