My PhD research is on whether the laws, rules and norms (institutions) of local government in Canada are biased against renters and how that bias affects their political participation. #cdnmuni #academictwitter
Today, I'm launching a web site for my project:

There's a huge turnout gap between homeowners and renters. The conventional explanation is that this is a positive effect on homeowners, who are motivated to protect the value of their property.
This “homevoter” hypothesis was developed by William Fischel. I think it explains some but not all of why there’s such a large housing tenure gap.
Instead of just one effect, I think there are two effects: one positive on homeowners and one negative in renters.

And it’s the combined -ve effect of institutions (who can vote, how lists are made, electoral boundaries, electoral systems, who gets what info) that’s missing.
Why does this matter? Because there are big differences between homeowners and renters.

In Canada, renters are younger, poorer, darker-skinned, more likely to be in core housing need and more likely to live in urban areas.

If the rules are biased against them, that’s a problem.
I’ve outlined some of these differences at

Part of my research will explore whether homeowners and renters have systematically different preferences.
Another part of my research is tracing the historical development of key institutions over time in several different cities and provinces. What were the early rules? How have they changed? What biases exist now?

I could use your help identifying them at
Here’s an obvious example: in 1867, renters could only vote if they met property or income qualifications (which most did not meet).
Building on the work of @trounstine, on how American machine and reform coalitions maintained dominance, I’m analyzing three kinds of bias: information bias, vote bias (like the example above) and seat bias.

I’m looking for examples of all three types at
If this sounds like something you’re interested in, I’m giving a public lecture defending my research proposal in mid-December. RSVP at and I’ll send you the Zoom link! Anyone can attend to ask questions or just listen in.
My supervisor, who is helping me think through this project, is @MartinGHorak. Thank you, Martin, and my other committee members, for challenging me to really narrow down the scope and sharpen the logic. I’m looking forward to defending the proposal next month!

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More from @jesse_helmer

14 Aug
One year ago today, #OEVldn faced a major explosion on #Woodman Ave. I remember feeling the shake from inside my home. I headed outside, as did many of my neighbours. The fire and smoke were terrifying, and it was the beginning of a long night ahead.

THREAD #WoodmanStrong /1
When I think back to a year ago, what sticks out in my mind is not the tragic explosion but the many acts of heroism, big and small, we witnessed that night and in the weeks to follow. /2 #ldnont #oevldn #woodmanstrong
I remember seeing neighbours gathered on porches, helping those evacuated find shelter. I remember seeing people gathering up socks, pyjamas and books to help evacuated kids get to sleep in a new place...someone run across the street with pet food to feed evacuated animals. /3
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