Billionaire Landlords Threaten Middle-Class Housing Security

billionaire landlords take housing security from middle-class families

The post-pandemic economic landscape has ushered in the era of the billionaire landlord, a dystopian reality where wealthy elites profit while low- and middle-income earners suffer. These mega-landlords wield near-absolute power, influencing policies and exacerbating homelessness through rent hikes and evictions. As private firms bankroll politicians, it’s clear: the voice of the landlord drowns out the plight of renters, underscoring the urgent need for legislative action to protect tenant rights and curb homelessness.


Rising Inequality: Leah Goodridge Exposes the Risks of Billionaire Landlords Monopolizing Housing and Profiting at the Expense of Lower and Middle Classes

Poverty profiteering is not just for the poor anymore. 

Research published by the Institute for Policy Studies shows that our post-pandemic economy has set the stage for the rising billionaire landlord, a concept that is every bit as dystopian as it sounds. All of this is happening at the expense of low- and middle-income earners.

The study, “Cashing in on Our Homes: Billionaire Landlords Profit as Millions Face Eviction,” takes a critical look at housing now that pandemic-era protections have been put to rest.

In the wake of otherwise economic destitution, it turns out that the billionaire class has fared expectedly well. And while the vast majority of Americans are grappling with an unprecedented affordability crisis, wealthy landlords line their pockets with our misery.

Here are some highlights reflected in that study:

The 61 US-based landlords who enjoy billionaire status saw a collective wealth increase of $24.4 billion.

To put things into perspective, that is almost 7x the national annual homelessness budget of $3.633 billion allocated in 2023. This means that 61 people made 7x more money than was set aside for all the homeless people in the country combined.

And that is just the extra money they made, in addition to the billions of dollars of profits they earned that came with their previous dividends. This amounts to a grand total of $240.9 billion, or 66x the national homeless reduction budget, split between 61 landlords.

You might think, what are they doing with all this money? Brace yourself, for they are buying what remains of America’s homes.

Corporate lawyers have notoriously bad reputations for rental building maintenance.

They are increasingly more likely to harass and evict tenants and also to raise rental rates to astronomical proportions, according to this study’s authors. If that trend continues, the trajectory for renting in the US presents a stark future where more renters will face the looming risk of homelessness and housing insecurity.

The report featured 20 corporate landlords who drew from a collective $245 billion stockpile of investor funds, loans, and cash to purchase housing.

These mega landlords and billionaire housing tycoons significantly influence US housing policies passed behind closed doors. Their ability to sway the legal system in their favor works at the expense of US renters and opposes the best interests of the general public.

Tens of millions of “essential workers, middle- and working-class families” now teeter on the brink of rent burden and eviction.

The Cost of Cashing In: Mass Gentrification, Displacement and Homelessness

In an exclusive one-on-one with Invisible People, Tenant Rights Attorney Leah Goodridge explained the dangers of leaving the vast majority of housing in the hands of a few elite entities.

“A lot of large corporate landlords are buying up property,” Goodridge said, adding that studies show this causes gentrification and displacement. “They displace a lot of the tenants by raising rents and sometimes simply evicting them.”

“I think this has also been an issue that has played out in homeownership,” she continued. “You have certain neighborhoods that are lower-income, mostly people of color, and they’re being bought out by corporate landlords.”

Goodridge added that their access to massive amounts of cash improves their odds of purchasing and essentially owning entire neighborhoods. 

“They are the cash buyers, and they will buy up a whole neighborhood and then own it,” she said. “There was a study in New York City about this where 40% of the home buyers were cash buyers, and a significant number of that 40% were corporate buyers. So, they’re able to pay all cash to buy residential homes and then rent them out as landlords.” 

Imagine the Impact of Corporate Landlords Owning and Wielding Near Absolute Power Over Already Marginalized Neighborhoods

Racism was an underlying theme of this study, as has been the case for centuries. From redlining and segregation to discriminatory rental selection processes, wealthy white elites have used the lack of homeownership among lower-income people to decimate neighborhoods where people of color predominantly reside economically.

By amassing significant property holdings, these mega-landlords possess the power to effectively exclude families from ethnic minority backgrounds from the housing market, perpetuating a cycle of lifelong renting. Even more alarming is their ability to influence policies and shape the environment. Despite the community’s reliance on these residential developments for housing and clean air, these billionaires can irresponsibly dump environmental waste into marginalized neighborhoods or accumulate numerous shuttered buildings, allowing them to deteriorate while serving as mere assets in their expanding portfolios.

To quote Miguel Robles-Duran of Democracy at Work, “As mega-landlords monopolize the housing stock of complete regions, they have absolute control of setting rental and property prices, allowing them to socially engineer and manipulate urban environments for profit to a level that has never been seen before.”

This study and others like it conclude that the overwhelming majority of corporate billionaire landlords, those who are buying up entire neighborhoods, are wealthy white males. Meanwhile, African American renters account for more than half of all US evictions despite representing roughly 18.8% of all renters nationwide.

As the rise of the mega-landlord overshadows the housing and rental market, private firms that can afford to pay off politicians sway the vote in favor of the landlord every time.

Talk to Your Legislators About Increasing Rights for Tenants

Curbing homelessness is not only about establishing secure, safe, affordable homes for people already in crisis. It is also about preventing homelessness.

In a capitalistic society, this means having more protections in place for renters, such as rent control laws, anti-discrimination clauses, and other measures that make it difficult to evict people into homelessness.

Talk to your legislators about drafting policies that prevent eviction and subsequent homelessness.


Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith

     

Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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