Using CBPR to Highlight Tenant Experiences in Corporate Landlord Housing

Categories: CHARP

Throughout the Spring 2023 semester, Dr. Michelle Zuñiga’s Qualitative Methods in Geography class conducted a community based participatory research (CBPR) with Action NC, a local non-profit focused on economic and housing justice in Charlotte, NC. From the first week of class onwards, graduate students in the class worked closely with Jessica Moreno, Action NC’s Organizing Director, to develop research questions, interview questions, a code book, and policy recommendations for issues regarding tenant’s experiences living in corporate landlord housing. 

This research focus first grew in the Fall of 2022 through conversations and community discussions with local housing advocates. Moreno, a vocal organizer for tenants rights, mentioned in conversation with Dr. Zuñiga that there is a lot of quantitative data documenting the uncontrolled growth of corporate landlords in Charlotte. However, she expressed wanting a way to document the stories of residents impacted by this growth. She was especially interested in learning what leads residents to live in corporate landlord housing in Charlotte and how tenants experience living in corporate landlord housing. Dr. Zuñiga, an Affiliate Faculty with the Charlotte Action Research Project, thought these research interests could be greatly aligned with her Spring 2023 Qualitative Methods in Geography class. 

In the class, graduate students not only grew in understanding of how to carry out CBPR, but also in how to engage with residents in their communities through participant observations, going door to door canvassing with our partner to learn more about tenant experiences living in corporate landlord housing, and how to conduct interviews or conversations with residents as they opened up to share the challenges they have faced to secure housing in Charlotte. 

On May 3rd, 2023, to an audience of about 60-70 local residents, a county commissioner (Pat Cotham), and the local news media (WCNC), graduate students from Dr. Zuñiga’s Qualitative Methods in Geography class brought the semester to a close by highlighting from their research the key issues tenants are currently facing in Charlotte: a sense of disempowerment from their landlord and/or property manager, exponential rent increases, feeling stuck with few alternatives to corporate landlord housing, and significant barriers to one day buying a home of their own. Documenting these experiences and stories to share with state officials, county commissioners, and the local city council and mayor were important for Moreno, the class, and Dr. Zuñiga to push for policies of protection for vulnerable residents experiencing threats of eviction, a lack of maintenance, and exponential rent increases. 

Read here to learn more about what was covered at the presentation of findings with residents and housing advocates.