This blog post was written by Erica Crowley from the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER). See the original post on CHER’s blog here

It’s week 4 of the Liberal Arts Action Lab Fall semester, which means students are beginning data collection! This semester, one of the Liberal Arts Action Lab teams is studying Absentee Landlords in Hartford in partnership with community partners at Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA). SINA is a community development nonprofit that considers various real estate acquisition strategies, and they asked for an analysis of 2-4 unit homes in the area– the key question is: is this unit owner-occupied? What part of the neighborhood stock is owned by absentee landlords?

Action Lab Director Megan Brown and the Absentee Landlords Project Team

To get started on their research, Capital Community College students Michael Serrano and Lena Wright decided to try a few observations on Allen Place with their faculty fellow Emily Yen (Trinity College) and Action Lab Director Megan Brown. All the teams are considering questions this week such as, “How should I collect data so that I can be sure I can analyze it later?” and, “What are the benefits and costs of different qualitative data collection strategies?” This team started by choosing a random sample of multi-family homes in the area and walking along to each unit to take notes on what clued them into whether the homes were owner-occupied or not. After taking notes individually on a few units, they came together as a group to share what they wrote down and begin deciding on a team note taking strategy that everyone will understand.

Urban Studies Trinity Faculty Fellow Emily Yen and Capital Community College Students Lena Wright and Michael Serrano

Faculty Fellow Emily Yen suggested using a 1-5 scale to indicate whether a team member could tell strongly one way or the other if a unit is owner-occupied. Lena Wright suggested to write down the number of mailboxes on the outside of a building and how many units there were, and Michael Serrano suggested looking for the number of mailboxes on the outside of the home and ringing the doorbell to see if anyone could answer in person. Both Michael and Lena had a few opportunities to talk directly with residents to find a clearer answer on whether units were owner-occupied or not.

This team is off to a great start! Stay tuned for more to come…

The Liberal Arts Action Lab is a partnership between Trinity College and Capital Community College where Hartford community partners define problems facing the city and collaborate with teams of students and faculty to research and publicly share possible solutions. To learn more, visit or contact Action Lab Director Student and faculty applications for Spring 2020 teams are due October 31st and possible projects will be announced this week. 


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