Cashing In On Our Homes: Billionaire Landlords Profit as Millions Face Eviction
Bargaining for the Common Good | Institute for Policy Studies | Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light what we have always known: Our homes are vital to our safety, health, and well-being. But a handful of billionaires and corporate landlords have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to cash in on these hard times.
Instead of more billionaire bailouts, we need to make sure all families can stay safely in our homes. And we must start to rebuild housing systems in this country using innovative strategies that center Black and Brown families and make it clear that our homes are for people, not profit.
While the pandemic has devastated Black and Brown communities, a small handful of wealthy, white billionaire landlords are cashing in to the tune of millions. In this report, produced by Bargaining for the Common Good, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, we lay out clearly who’s winning, who’s losing, and what to do about it.
- There are 61 individual billionaire landlords in America with collective wealth totaling $240.9 billion.
- These billionaire landlords have seen their wealth increase $24.4 billion since mid-March 2020.
- Corporate landlords have a worsening track record of poor maintenance, rising rents and fees, and harassment of tenants and evictions.
- 20 corporate landlord companies are responsible for at least 3,152 evictions across the U.S. during the pandemic.
- Many large landlords received financial support from the coronavirus relief package — sometimes while continuing to file eviction notices against their tenants.
- One in five renters weren’t caught up on their rent as of early February 2021. This represents 13.5 million Americans. If being behind on rent were a state, it would be the fifth-largest state in America.
- Latinx and Black renters have been the most likely to lose employment income and fall behind on rent — and are now at substantially higher risk of eviction.
The top billionaire residential landlords in this report have wealth totaling $194 billion. They’ve seen their wealth increase $21.2 billion since mid-March 2020.
- Stephen Schwarzman
- Donald Bren
- Leon Black
- Josh Harris
- Marc Rowan
- Stephen Ross
- Barry Sternlicht
- Sam Zell
- J. Bruce Flatt
- Stephen Feinberg
- Mack Pogue
The 20 corporate landlords in this report:
- Are owned or led almost exclusively by white, male mega-millionaires and billionaires.
- Own or manage almost 2 million units of housing — about 4 percent of all rental housing units in the United States, or more than one in 25 rental units nationwide.
- Have amassed at least $245 billion in “cash on hand”— loans, cash and other funds from investors, banks and financial firms — to purchase homes and companies active in the market.
Ten of these 20 corporate landlords operate in the state of California, the largest U.S. housing market. We looked at these firms, their cash on hand and political contributions, and the crisis facing renters in California here.
Corporate landlords and their billionaire owners and investors have the responsibility — and more than enough resources — to protect our communities during this pandemic. They need to put our health and safety before their greed. Government policy and relief dollars should go toward making sure all families can stay safely in our homes.
And we must start to rebuild housing systems in this country using innovative strategies that center families of color and make clear that our homes are for people, not profit.
- Corporate landlords must stop evictions, stop intimidating households into paying back rent owed, and erase back rent through the end of the pandemic. Using profits made during the pandemic, they must establish a fund dedicated to covering the cost for the cancellation of rent for all renter households impacted by the pandemic.
- Policymakers must protect renter households during the pandemic, especially Black and Brown families at increased risk for pandemic-related housing impacts. This includes passing and enforcing expansive, long-term eviction moratoriums and enacting legislation that cancel rents for pandemic-impacted renters.
- Policymakers must pass legislation to ensure corporate landlords do not profit from this crisis, including the Stop Wall Street Looting Act (SWSLA).
- Policymakers can begin to rebuild the housing system we need in this country by implementing solutions that draw on best practices for social housing around the world, establishing a Tenants’ Bill of Rights, ensuring large corporate landlords pay their fair share of taxes to fund services that help people afford and stay in their homes, and making massive investments in Black and Brown home ownership at levels appropriate to address the scale of the inequity and racist history of U.S. housing policies.