Within the local government context, municipal code enforcement involves relatively entry-level decision makers operating across a highly uneven and diverse tapestry of neighborhoods and living situations. Implicit in code enforcement practices is a blending of objective health and safety concerns with highly subjective social and cultural norms. While code enforcement activities are vital for protecting individual and collective public health, safety, and wellbeing, the potential harms caused by implicit bias and differential treatment are great, and the material consequences and stakes grow increasingly higher, especially as cities adopt stronger nuisance and crime-free housing ordinances.  

This project will answer: 

  1. How different are municipal codes concerning residential housing and residential nuisances across middle-sized cities in Illinois?  

  1. What are the demographic characteristics of the neighborhoods in which code violations are being written and enforced? What are the types of penalties being leveraged, by neighborhood? 

  1. What are the individual and collective consequences of code enforcement activity for market actors, residents, and civil society? 

  1. What opportunities exist within the governance of code enforcement to minimize harms and disparate impacts while ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of residents.

Drawing on the experiences of local tenants, landlords, and code enforcement officers, this research will evaluate racial bias in rental housing code enforcement, and against homeowners if the data supports it, and has the potential to improve residential instability and displacement resulting, in part, from inequitable enforcement of local housing codes.