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Cityscape: Volume 26 Number 1 | Local Data for Local Action | Analyzing the Effect of Crime-Free Housing Policies on Completed Evictions Using Spatial First Differences


Local Data for Local Action

Volume 26 Number 1

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Analyzing the Effect of Crime-Free Housing Policies on Completed Evictions Using Spatial First Differences

Max Griswold
Lawrence Baker
Sarah B. Hunter
Jason Ward
RAND Corporation

Cheng Ren
University at Albany, State University of New York

Crime-free housing policies attempt to prevent crime within rental properties by enrolling property owners in a local crime-free housing program, which subsequently permits landlords to use a supplemental lease agreement stating certain activities that could lead to a tenant being evicted. Building on third-party policing strategies, crime-free housing policies are widely prevalent across the United States, with an estimated 2,000 jurisdictions adopting them since 1992. Despite the widespread adoption of such policies, no previous research has identified their effect on evictions.

This article analyzes the effect of crime-free housing policies on evictions in four locations (Fremont, Hayward, Riverside, and San Diego County) in California. The authors obtained geocoded data on evictions through Public Records Act requests submitted to sheriff’s departments in California seeking writs of execution, with additional Public Records Act requests submitted to municipalities to obtain policy implementation information, including the location of certified multifamily property units. To identify a causal effect, a spatial first differences design was used to exploit variation between U.S. Census Bureau block groups with and without certified properties.

The results show that block groups with crime-free housing certified rental units have lower per capita income and larger proportions of Black and Latin/Hispanic populations. In each location, model results indicate that crime-free housing policies significantly increase evictions. Considered jointly, the findings suggest that crime-free housing policies increase evictions by 24.9 percent (95-percent confidence interval: 15.1–34.6 percent) within treated block groups. Given the harm that evictions cause and the governmental costs of eviction proceedings, municipalities across the United States should weigh the benefits of crime-free housing policies against increases in evictions. In addition, given the close policy similarities between crime-free housing policies, criminal activity nuisance ordinances, chronic nuisance ordinances, and the one-strike policy in public housing, these results indicate that policymakers should consider revising the existing policies as a potential means to reduce evictions nationally.

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