'Wall Street's Latest Real Estate Grab'
In a feature piece, Francesca Mari writes about the rise of the single-family-rental market, a vast network of private-equity firms drastically changing American cities:
Strategic Acquisitions was but one of several companies in Los Angeles County, and one of dozens in the United States, that hit on the same idea after the financial crisis: load up on foreclosed properties at a discount of 30 to 50 percent and rent them out. Rather than protecting communities and making it easy for homeowners to restructure bad mortgages or repair their credit after succumbing to predatory loans, the government facilitated the transfer of wealth from people to private-equity firms.
It is a $60 billion real estate industry that has taken control of hundreds of thousands of homes, pushed moderate-income and middle-income people out of the housing market, and left renters struggling with deplorable housing conditions.
Mari details the trials and tribulations of one renter in California, who ended up renting the San Fernando Valley home he previously owned. She also describes the efforts of tenants who have organized and fought back against excessive fees, lack of maintenance, and evictions.
"In some communities, [the housing grab] has fundamentally altered housing ecosystems in ways we’re only now beginning to understand, fueling a housing recovery without a homeowner recovery," says Mari.