Funded on May 15, 2024

This project will examine the effect of the State of North Carolina’s preemption policy, which effectively bars local governments from adopting so-called proactive local housing code enforcement programs requiring rental units to pass housing code inspection prior to leasing. This prohibition could prove a barrier to racial justice and health equity, by forcing local governments to revert to reactive, complaint-based enforcement methods – weaker methods that allow many violations to go undetected. Under these methods, the responsibility for enforcement is largely shifted from the local government to the renters themselves, who may already be in a disadvantageous power relation to the landlord, may be unaware of their rights under the code or the procedures for enforcement, and may be afraid to report code violations for fear of retaliation. We know that poor housing conditions impair the health of occupants, and that the neighborhoods likely to be affected most – those with higher percentages of substandard housing – are also likely to have larger Black populations. 

The study poses two key research questions:  

  1. Does the shift from proactive to complaint-based housing code enforcement models, mandated by state preemption policy, adversely affect housing conditions, and  

  2. Does this effect vary by race? 

This project will build on the work of prior research and the experience of countless administrators and community members. It is understood that access to affordable housing resources is a key social determinant of health, and that housing resources are allocated unequally between groups defined economically, geographically, and demographically. The link between housing code enforcement and health is an area where further research is needed.