The Ecology of Rental Housing Regulation in Illinois

Local governments regulate the health and safety of housing via code enforcement – this project questions how code enforcement decision-making occurs within the local government context. Using a combination of quantitative analysis and documentary video, this project asks code enforcement officers and local government officials what matters about neighborhoods when they make code enforcement decisions. This project blends these local government perspectives with that of landlords, tenants, and community members to better understand both the causes of code enforcement action and consequences for local communities.

This project is a partnership between Illinois Housing Lab and Housing Action Illinois and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Policies for Action program.

Neighborhood Change, Structural Racism, and Health

Structural and institutional racism remain integral parts of housing policy in the United States. High levels of racial and economic segregation expose some residents to more adverse conditions that have important social, economic, and physiological outcomes. This project examines the relationship between exposure to structural racism at the neighborhood level and health outcomes for both mothers and their babies. This project sets out to illustrate the relationship between neighborhood housing disparities and health disparities with important implication for the intergenerational transfer of health and wellbeing.

The Socio-Spatial Ecology of Bed Bugs

This project examines the residential environment as an integrated socio-environmental system.  We focus on the relationship between bed bugs and housing as a tightly coupled system because humans are the primary host of bed bugs, and housing units are the primary location of bed bug infestations. Our work on bed bug infestations in Chicago (Sutherland et al., 2021) and New York (McLafferty et al. 2020) has shown that bed bugs are not evenly distributed across the socio-economic landscape.  In Chicago, bed bug infestations are strongly associated with both income and crowding at the neighborhood level. Bed bug prevalence is higher in lower income neighborhoods with higher levels of household crowding.  Further, we find that bed bug infestations are positively associated with eviction risk, further connecting bed bugs to issues of poverty and mobility.  Bed bugs increase the disproportionate allocation of public health burdens upon neighborhoods facing multiple dimensions of disadvantage.

Bed bugs have recently undergone a resurgence and can cause changes in behavior of governments (policy), markets (rent) and individuals (moves), and in turn, these institutions affect bed bug population dynamics (population growth, dispersal, local extirpation, evolution of dispersal behavior and pesticide resistance). The recent resurgence of bed bugs has caused a range of local policy responses and debates. By treating bed bugs and housing as an integrated social and environmental system, we address several basic yet unanswered questions about the spatial and demographic determinants of bed bug prevalence. We then use the answers to these basic questions to examine how policy interventions may have intended and unintended consequences associated with the types of feedback processes we believe are inherent to this system.