Property Tax Delinquency and Vulnerability in Tucson: A Preliminary Analysis

Authors: Andrea Lara-Garcia*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Development, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: displacement, manufactured housing, housing, gentrification,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tax liens are a type of debt a homeowner accrues when they fail to pay their property taxes on time. Because property taxes make up nearly 40% of total local government revenue in the United States, widespread tax delinquency can pose revenue generation problems for municipalities (Marchiony, 2012). In order to recoup their financial losses, Arizona’s Pima County has established a yearly tax lien sale where the County sells the ability to collect debt on these liens (Marchiony, 2012; Pima County Treasurer’s Office, 2020). However, several Tucson nonprofits have organized against this practice, citing concerns that the sales may precipitate processes of displacement and gentrification. This study seeks to understand the relationship between tax lien sales and displacement. Using 2020 tax lien sale data available through the Pima County Treasurer’s Office, the dataset was cleaned to determine the quantity and location of inhabited residential liens. Findings indicate that inhabited residential liens make up an extraordinarily small proportion (<1%) of overall liens in Tucson, preventing any statistically significant regression analysis from being done. These results run contrary to the reports of local nonprofits in Tucson. However, there is some indication that manufactured housing may be overrepresented in this data set, as 33% of inhabited residential liens were associated with these property types. Further research is needed to determine whether these patterns hold true in other years, as well as if the dataset is appropriate for measuring this phenomenon.

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