Monday, January 27, 2014

Old North Upkeep 5: Owner-Renter Differences (234)

Like other small cities hosting a mega state university with numerous students squeezed
into rented residential properties, Davis has a rich lore focused on “student renter" derelictions.

The counts I have done allow us, in a modest way, to attempt to assess the degree to which there is any truth in this lore.

Table 7 shows the positive and negative upkeep levels divided into four categories of owner-occupants of homes, rentals to people who are not students, rentals to groups of students, and a number of places that were either vacant or for I which I did not know anything about the occupants.

Before discussing the findings, I need to report that 13 of the 163 street-visible residences were either vacant or I was not certain about owner-renter status. This is 8% of the total. This “short-fall” should be kept in mind in interpreting the statistics. I do not think it seriously distorts the overall picture, but others might have a different view.

I should also say I was surprised by how easy it was for me to classify the great bulk of residences. This might be accounted for by the fact that I am a long-time area dog walker and I have strolled past and observed all 163 of these places many times since 1974. Through earlier research projects and socializing, I have come to know the names of a great many both past and present residents and their relations to their properties. The surprise would be, instead, my not knowing about the owner-renter status of properties.

The basic findings are presented in Table 7. Area-wide, ON has a positive upkeep rate of 76%. If there were no owner-renter effect, the percentage should be 76 or near to it in each of the three pertinent top-row cells of Table 7.

But this is not the case. Instead, the percentage of owner-occupants rated positive is higher than the other two categories: 88 versus 52, versus 64%.

Stated as positive percentages, this finding seems less dramatic than when we look at the differences stated in the negative reverse:

owners 12% negative upkeep

non-student renters 48% negative upkeep

student renters 36% negative upkeep

So from this count anyway, we can say that renters are less likely to keep up their residences than owners. Sadly, I suppose, there might be some truth in the stereotype.

One mild surprise is that student renters have a higher rate of positive upkeep than non-student renters--64% compared to 52%.  Stated in the negative, this is 48% negative upkeep for non-student renters and 36% negative upkeep for student renters.

A more refined view of these data is presented in Table 8. There are also some mild surprises here that seem initially but not ultimately counter-intuitive.

First, owners are not only the champion Martha Stewart up keepers--as we would expect based on stereotypes--they also tie student renters on the percent of blighted homes--2%. In absolute terms, owners have the most blighted residences--2, versus 1 for student renters.

Second, I am surprised by the incidence of eccentric maintenance among owners and that this percentage is about the same as among non-student renters (8% and 9%, respectively).

Third, at this micro level of statistics on places in physical proximity, sheer numbers and not simply percentages begin to require serious attention.

For example, it is one thing to say that 8% of owners have eccentrically upkept homes. It is another to say that among 82 owners, 7 of them maintain eccentrically up kept places. Eight may be a small percent, but an absolute seven of them might figure larger in human assessment and perception “on the ground.”

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Overall, these data confirm common stereotypes about owner-renter differences in keeping up their properties.

But, these findings feature the surprise that owners are more likely to have blighted properties than renters and student renters have somewhat higher rates of positive upkeep than non-student renters.