Taking down slumlords with social network analysis

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 06, 2012

A group of buildings whose tenants continually complained about living conditions changed hands so frequently that city officials could do nothing about it....until a group representing the tenants used social network analysis to reveal the connections between all of the seemingly separate owners.

It was now obvious that properties exchanged hands not as independent and valid real estate investments but as a conspiracy to avoid fixing the building violations. The green links represent borrowed money flowing into the buildings through new mortgages. As time went on, and the buildings appreciated in value during a real estate boom — loans from the mortgage company allowed the owners to "strip mine" the equity from the buildings. This is a common slumlord modus operandi — they suck money out of a building rather than put money back in for maintenance.