Who Owns Unsubsidized Affordable Housing?

L to R: Nathan Sariowan, Ethan Truong, Matt Alvarez-Nissen, Maile Paulmeier, Maddie Connelly

This blog post and related research were prepared for the California Housing Partnership by undergraduate students at Stanford University as part of the Program on Urban Studies community engaged learning course “Gentrification.” Students learn about this complicated topic in class and through engaging in a real-world project with partner organizations including Faith in Action Bay Area, Silicon Valley at Home (SV@Home), Enterprise Community Partners, and the Partnership. The Partnership thanks Dr. Michael Kahan for making this connection possible.

Key Findings (based on a neighborhood case study):

  • “Mom-and-pop” owners tend to live in the neighborhood while corporate owners have complex ownership structures.
  • More than 50% of unsubsidized affordable properties were linked to corporate ownership.
  • About 40% of corporate-owned properties lost affordability between 2020 and 2023, which was significantly higher than average.

This case study demonstrates the importance of understanding who owns affordable housing in California, especially in areas that are vulnerable to neighborhood change, and the need to support policy changes and investments to protect this rapidly dwindling stock of unsubsidized affordable housing. While opportunities for State support and funding have largely passed for 2024, the Partnership expects to continue to work with our allies on the following initiatives.

  • The Community Anti-Displacement and Preservation Program (CAPP), as proposed in Senate Bill 225 (Caballero), to allow mission-driven affordable housing entities to purchase at-risk unsubsidized affordable developments.
  • The Foreclosure Intervention Housing Preservation Program (FIHPP) to allow mission-driven affordable housing entities to exercise their right of first refusal to acquire foreclosed properties.
  • The Affordable Housing Preservation Tax Credit, as proposed by AB 1911 (Gabriel) of 2022, to encourage property owners to voluntarily sell at-risk properties to experienced affordable housing organizations who will maintain affordability.
  • A requirement for property owners to disclose beneficial owners, as proposed in SB 1201 (Durazo), to unravel the complex ownership structures highlighted in this case study and identify “true” owners. The Partnership urges readers to support this important bill by signing Rise Economy’s group letter of support prior to its consideration in the State Assembly Banking and Finance Committee on July 1.

What is Unsubsidized Affordable Housing?

Unsubsidized affordable housing, also known as naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH), encompasses affordable properties that are available in the market without government subsidy or regulation. In the United States, unsubsidized affordable housing makes up approximately 75% of the current affordable housing stock,1 a majority of which are owned by private landlords.2 Unsubsidized affordable housing is typically composed of renter-occupied multifamily properties that, through some combination of location and building condition, have rents below market rate that are affordable to low-income households. Due to their characteristic lack of regulation and high profit potential, though, unsubsidized affordable housing units are particularly vulnerable to speculation, demolition, and redevelopment.

Why Ownership of Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Matters

Since unsubsidized affordable housing is the predominant source of affordable housing for Californians, it is critical that we protect this already scarce resource.3 Unlike their subsidized counterparts – LIHTC, housing choice vouchers, and other programs – existing regulations do not do enough to protect unsubsidized affordable housing unless the local government with jurisdiction has adopted a rent stabilization ordinance of some kind, which is rare. While statewide rent caps implemented by AB 1482 (Tenant Protection Act of 2019) do cover unsubsidized affordable housing, owners can still increase rents or redevelop the property and in turn burden low-income residents.

Understanding property ownership trends will help those interested in preserving the unsubsidized affordable housing stock better target at-risk properties. More specifically, identifying a property’s ownership type would help improve the California Housing Partnership’s (the Partnership) Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Risk Index.4 For instance, corporate ownership is an additional risk factor that makes unsubsidized affordable properties more likely to become unaffordable. As the Partnership continues to develop its research on unsubsidized affordable housing, trends in property ownership can also be used to advocate for statewide preservation policies and help mission-driven, nonprofit-controlled organizations make well-informed acquisitions of unsubsidized affordable housing.

Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Ownership Identification Methodology

The greatest challenge our team faced in this process was uncovering the beneficiary or “true” ownership of unsubsidized affordable properties. Due to complex networks of shell company names and other pseudonyms, it is difficult to identify property ownership with certainty considering that any given address can have hundreds of linked mailing addresses and owner names. Some public resources such as the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s Evictorbook or the San Francisco Chronicle’s ownership map offer free access to true owners,5 but their sites are not built to accommodate the mass queries that are necessary to gather statewide data.

To effectively identify unsubsidized affordable housing owners on a larger scale, our team developed an ownership-matching methodology that hybridizes public and private data sources to bypass the corporate veils obscuring California property ownership. Utilizing Stanford’s access to CoreLogic data, we replicated the level of information the Partnership can use internally with proprietary CoStar data.6 With CoreLogic data, the team aggregated common names, mailing addresses, and associated companies for each of the unsubsidized affordable properties in our study area.7

Adams Point Case Study

In collaboration with the Partnership, our team chose to feature the Adams Point neighborhood in Oakland, California as a case study of unsubsidized affordable housing and its ownership. Identifying the ownership type (corporate, family, individual, etc.) of properties in this neighborhood allows advocates like the Partnership to better understand their vulnerability in the market and prioritize their protection to maintain Oakland’s existing affordable housing stock. We hope this case study serves as a guide to extend this analysis across the state.

Like many neighborhoods across California, Oakland’s Adams Point has experienced affordable housing scarcity in recent years due to forces like gentrification that are characteristic of the nation-wide housing crisis. Having faced residential turnover, increasing home prices, and elevated risk for displacement of existing residents, the neighborhood has undoubtedly changed – yet it still retains a fair amount of affordable housing, including about 2,800 unsubsidized affordable homes and 67 subsidized affordable homes out of about 5,900 total homes.8 Our team decided this neighborhood context would make Adams Point a good candidate to test unsubsidized affordable housing ownership network methodologies.

With our collected property data, our team classified properties by ownership type based on the content of their linked owner names: corporate, family, individual, or trust ownership.9 Out of 168 unsubsidized affordable properties, we determined that 93 were owned by corporations, 20 by family, 27 by trusts, and 64 by individuals. These categories are not mutually exclusive – a property can be owned by a corporation and a family, for example, although not a corporation and an individual. The map in Figure 1 summarizes the spatial distribution of ownership types throughout the case study area, with a majority of properties having at least one link to corporate ownership (about 55%). Notably, a significant portion of properties were owned by individuals (about 38%). 

Figure 1: Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Ownership Types in Adams Point, Oakland

Source: Student analysis of CoreLogic property data, 2024; California Housing Partnership, Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Database, 2023

The team also explored the relationships between ownership type, network size, and owner location. Network size refers to the number of unique owner-entities that are associated with a single property. For example, individual properties may be owned by distinct LLCs that all share a mailing address with a single corporation – each one of those LLCs counts as an owner-entity. Properties with corporate-linked owners have an average network size of 10.97 unique entities while properties with individual owners have an average network size of 3.14 unique entities. Further, over 50% of properties with individual ownership had listed mailing addresses that matched the property’s zip code. These findings show that individual owners have less complex ownership structures and are more likely to live in the neighborhood, while corporate entities have exponentially larger and more complex networks by nature of their design.

We additionally compared ownership type as it relates to property size, number of affordable units, and loss of affordability. We found that corporate ownership is linked with higher unit counts and property values. Although there were mixed findings on the links between ownership type and overall levels of affordability, we found that among properties that were previously unsubsidized affordable housing, about 40% of corporate-owned properties lost affordability between 2020 and 2023 compared to only 28% of family-owned properties. Further, larger and more complex ownership networks are associated with affordability loss – for example, about 57% of previously affordable properties owned by medium/large networks (21-30 associated entities) lost affordability between 2020 and 2023.

As a microcosm of other California neighborhoods vulnerable to neighborhood change, Adams Point illustrates the salience of corporate ownership of unsubsidized affordable housing as well as the difficulty of unveiling beneficiary ownership. However, our initial success with matching techniques illustrates the potential for using this method to determine unsubsidized affordable housing ownership type in other neighborhoods across the state. Additional work is needed to further validate owner match results with available public resources, but the combination of public and private data is promising in delivering useful insights in unsubsidized affordable housing ownership.

ABOUT THE Contributors

This blog post was researched and written by Maddie Connelly, Maile Paulmeier, Nathan Sariowan and Ethan Truong, undergraduate students in URBANST 141, Gentrification at Stanford. The course is taught by Dr. Michael Kahan, Co-Director of Stanford’s Program on Urban Studies.
MattAlvarez-Nissin_staff bio_600x600

Additional content and editing were completed by Matt Alvarez-Nissen, Senior Research/Policy Associate at the Partnership. He supports the Partnership’s policy and research efforts through data analysis and program evaluation as well as regional work with local governments and statewide academic/research partners. He previously worked as a planner for Dyett & Bhatia and on gentrification and displacement research at both the Urban Displacement Project and the Changing Cities Research Lab. Matt is a Stanford Urban Studies program alum.


  1. Pyati, Archana. New CoStar Data Reveal a Vast National Inventory of Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing – and an Untapped Opportunity. (October 24, 2016), Urban Land Institute,
  2. Kling, S., Peloquin.S., Riesenberg.C., Woetzel.L, Preserving the largest and most at-risk supply of affordable housing. (February 23, 2021), McKinsey & Company.
  3. See the Partnership’s 2024 Unsubsidized Affordable Homes At-Risk report:
  4. The Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Risk Index is used to identify which homes are most at risk of losing their affordability in the near term. For more, see the Partnership’s 2024 Unsubsidized Affordable Homes At-Risk report:
  5. For more on the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s Evictorbook, see: For more on the San Francisco Chronicle’s ownership reporting, see:
  6. CoreLogic is an information services provider that maintains proprietary real estate data and is available to Stanford affiliates through the university’s library. CoStar is a commercial real estate information company that provides proprietary real estate data – including asking rents.
  7. The team utilized SQL code to aggregate this data.
  8. There are 5,874 total units located in census tracts within the Adams Point neighborhood according to 2022 5-year American Community Survey estimates. Census tracts used to proxy the neighborhood include tract 4036, tract 4037.01, and tract 4037.02.
  9. Corporate owners included the terms “LLC”, “LP”, or “INC”; family owners included the term “FAMILY”; trust owners included the terms “TR” or “TRUST”; while individual owners were those with a singular name associated with the property and no additional obscuring entities. Family ownership refers to family trusts.