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Cityscape: Volume 20 Number 3 | Talking to Landlords


Youth Homelessness

Volume 20, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Talking to Landlords

Philip M.E. Garboden
University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Eva Rosen
Georgetown University

Disclaimer: The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government

Although evaluations of housing programs have increasingly incorporated a qualitative component to help researchers understand the mechanisms and meanings behind the statistical findings, systematic collection of data from housing suppliers (landlords, property managers, builders, and developers) has been lacking. Indeed, no comprehensive set of best practices exist for evaluation teams looking to incorporate the voices of supply-side actors in their work. In response to the lack of information on housing suppliers and a desire to understand what motivates landlord participation in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, HUD funded the first ethnographic study of landlords, Urban Landlords and the Housing Choice Voucher Program: A Research Report. This study involved a 5-year data collection effort in Baltimore, MD; Dallas, TX; Cleveland, OH; and Washington, D.C., and conducted 150 interviews with landlords and property managers, most of whom were drawn from a random stratified sample. In the article, we explore lessons learned across four key components of the ethnographic study: (1) sampling, including the process of developing a sampling frame, stratification, and pulling a sample; (2) recruitment, focusing on the “under the hood” techniques for getting landlords to participate; (3) the interview itself, exploring how to elicit candid responses that can inform policy development; and (4) ethnographic methods, focusing on how field observation can enrich the interview data and reduce analytic bias. We believe the technical details provided will be of great interest within the housing policy evaluation community and advance the use of qualitative and ethnographic methods in evaluation research going forward.

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