Step 1: Catalog all known tenures

Housing tenure is general more diverse and complex than even most housing advocates realize. Subtle differences in building size and legal arrangements can dramatically change the level and types of protections available.

To start the catalog, we recommend dividing tenures into at least four categories:

  • Rental tenures
  • Ownership tenures
  • Third way tenures (tenures that blend the benefits of rental and ownership)
  • Informal and homeless tenures

Making a list of tenures

These categories can be expanded starting with the following list of widespread tenures in the United States. See the Oakland case study report for the 56 specific tenures identified in that context

Ownership Tenures
Single-family homeownership (no HOA)
Single-family homeownership (HOA)
Single-family with legal ADU
Multifamily ownership
Market rate co-op
Rental Tenures
Market-rate rental
Subsidized-building rental
Rental with housing voucher
Rental in legal ADU or owner-occupied unit
Third Way Tenures
Community Land Trust
Limited equity co-op
Mobile home in mobile home park
Below Market Rate condo
Time share
Informal or Homeless Tenures
Informal/illegal ADU
Doubling up in rented unit
Squatting in residential building
Illegal warehouse or commercial tenancy
Living in car
Living in boat
Homeless Shelter, including sheds
Camping, sleeping rough, etc

Housing tenure types should be distinguished from one another insofar as there are implications for legal protections. For example, while accessory dwelling units (ADU’s) may be similar structurally whether or not they are registered or legal, the distinction has important legal implications for both tenants and owners. Because duplexes and triplexes may be exempt from certain tenant protections if they are owner-occupied, owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes should be separated out from those in which all units are renter-occupied – and these tenancies are separated out from larger multi-family tenancies. While tiny house encampments may look similar whether organized by the city or self-determined, the experience of residents is likely to differ significantly, so these were separated out from one another.

Expanding the list of tenures with local knowledge

The only way to truly see all the different tenures is to speak to housing professionals. Conduct interviews or focus groups with local housing advocates and professionals after developing the preliminary list of tenure types. Ask interviewees to help supplement the initial list with any tenure types they felt are missing. Be sure to include people knowledgeable across the tenure categories. You may need to reach out to regional, state or national advocates to find if you have specific forms of alternative third-way tenures like CLT’s or co-housing, as you may not have a local advocate in place and they may be somewhat hidden from view, depending on the size of the study area.

Following Step 1, proceed to Step 2: Quantify