Slumlords have an information advantage over people who give a crap about their community. For example, the Hennepin County property website provides information on individual properties, but doesn’t allow people to cross-reference by owner. Once a problem property is identified, it would be valuable to be able to cross reference other properties owned by the same person or company. That’s not to say that every property is automatically a problem property because it has the same owner. For example, the property they actually live in is likely in much better shape than many of their rentals.
This may help us gain a better understanding of festering housing issues before they erupt, like this case that Jeff Skrenes has been reporting on at Johnny Northside’s blog. In that case, a husband and wife team formed a business partnership and appear to have purchased over 50 Minneapolis properties that later all fell into foreclosure. Here is a map of what they own in North Minneapolis, according to Jeff Skrenes’s sources:
Pulling back, here is a city-wide look at their empire.
See how this could be useful? If someone in the Hawthorne Neighborhood figures out that a particular landlord is behind a series of problem properties, they could tip off involved community members in Whittier or Phillips about properties that may deserve a closer look. People from various communities could work together to identify who’s making life difficult for people across the city.
But, this can only be done with better data. Community activists shouldn’t have to stumble upon cooperative gatekeepers to public data. If the data is truly public, it needs to also be more readily accessible than it is today.