Ideas We Love: Using carrots to improve housing quality with the Tulsa Gold Star Landlord Program

Many Tennesseans have dreamed of establishing a rental registry that would require landlords to keep accurate contact information on file with local government agencies. Other U.S. cities have adopted this policy so that local agencies can identify and intervene with landlords more quickly when properties are not up to code – an increasing challenge in Memphis as the numbers of rental properties and out-of-town investors grow. Tennessee state law currently prohibits local governments outside of Nashville from implementing rental registries, but there are still innovative programs like Tulsa’s Gold Star Landlord Program that address this issue with carrots when sticks are off the table.   

The Gold Star Landlord program is free and voluntary for rental property owners. Those who participate must register all of their properties with the city, complete a Safe and Healthy Homes training on housing quality code and best practices, and list all vacant units on a centralized city website. In exchange, landlords receive free advertising and tenant referrals from the city to fill vacancies more quickly, financial incentives from Tulsa’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and priority processing when they apply for other types of programming funds such as pandemic-era emergency rental assistance. The City of Tulsa recently published a more detailed guidebook on the Gold Star Landlords program where you can learn more about how participation requirements and incentives work.