How Mentions of Criminal Histories in Seattle Rental Listings Have Evolved With Tenant Screening Regulations

Erin Carll, University of Washington, Seattle
Ian Kennedy , University of Washington, Seattle
Chris Hess, University of Washington, Seattle
Kyle Crowder, University of Washington, Seattle
Jerald Herting, University of Washington, Seattle
Adam Kirstein, Columbia University

Facing severe affordable housing shortages, Seattle is one of many cities employing regulatory remedies to expand housing access. During our case study in Seattle, the City Council passed two ordinances regulating how property owners and managers (POMs) select tenants, requiring POMs to rent an available home to the first qualified applicant, and limiting POMs’ ability to reject applicants based on a criminal record. To assess some of the possible consequences of these ordinances, we analyze recent Seattle rental advertisements (“ads”), asking whether and how the use and meaning of language around criminal histories evolves over time with new regulations, and whether observed trends differ by broader unit and neighborhood context. Data include Seattle Craigslist ads from March 2017 to May 2018 and tract-level American Community Survey data for 2012-2016. Based on new methods of text analysis that reveal topic prevalence and meaning, preliminary results suggest POMs' language in rental ads may be responsive to regulatory changes.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 7. Migration & Urbanization