By Ethan McLeod : bloomberg – excerpt
Housing activists, officials and researchers are deploying new tools to empower tenants, spotlight negligent property owners and curb evictions in U.S. cities.
The first words on the sign — “VACANT PROPERTY” — posted on the front door of a boarded-up rowhouse in Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood may overstate the obvious: The two-story brick home, its front steps sandwiched between tall weeds and a pile of garbage, clearly hasn’t been inhabited for some time. But the QR code sitting in the sign’s bottom right corner is a window to a trove of more expansive information about this building.
Scanning the pattern with a smartphone camera directs the user to a city web page linking to databases on property ownership, building permits, pending court cases and more. While this information is all publicly available, not everyone knows how to navigate these assorted city and state data portals.
The QR code signs are being installed by the city on its 17,000-plus properties with vacant building notices. It’s a practical evolution of a project that began as an artistic collaboration: Back in 2013, Baltimore housing activist Carol Ott and a troupe of street artists launched an effort called Wall Hunters, painting murals on vacant buildings that were accompanied by QR codes that led users to information about the building’s owner on Ott’s blog, Baltimore Slumlord Watch…
The grassroots-led Anti-Eviction Mapping Project has built its suite of tools off of that very philosophy. Erin McElroy helped found the cartography-as-advocacy project in San Francisco in 2013. After the Great Recession, a wave of investment firms bought up rental properties using LLCs and LLPs, and “a central problem that we kept on coming up against was that tenants didn’t know who their landlords were,” she said…
Scrolling through the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project website today, a user can scan maps of properties owned by specific “Wall Street landlords” — real estate investment trusts such as Invitation Homes and American Homes 4 Rent that have bought thousands of properties in California in recent years — and get tips on how to research them. The site also has info on serial evictors in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas and New York City who operate under the guise of various LLCs. That’s all due to the connections between project volunteers and housing organizers, tenant communities and attorneys.
The project has also used its network to expand to new cities and roll out other tools. Its latest offering, started in 2019 and still in beta testing by a coalition of Bay Area community partners, lets a user look up an address or the associated LLC or LLP and displays all associated properties and shell companies…(more)
We need all the ammunition we can get to protect the affordable housing stock and tenants who rely on it, and in many cases data is our best defense to protect existing housing is the data collected by the technology described in the article.
Regardless of where you live in America the housing game is the same. Create a housing shortage to force a housing crisis and then pounce on the unsuspecting public with extremely unpopular solutions hatched in by the corporate backers of our elected officials, who are threatened by their party leaders. Both parties are eating from the same trough that create the crisis. The pandemic has heighten the problem by removing normal communication channels and making public participation more difficult than it already was.