Blackstone Allocates $1B To Reduce Single-Family Rents As Scrutiny Over Investor Activity Intensifies
As rents across the country spike, public scrutiny toward private equity firms’ increasingly large stake in the housing market has intensified. One of the largest Wall Street investors in the single-family rental market on Friday announced plans to buy $1B in single-family rental homes, but this time it says its intent is to ease the housing crisis, not exploit it.
Home Partners of America, a single-family rental company acquired by Blackstone in 2021 that has more than 17,000 houses, unveiled a program called Choice Lease on Friday to provide tenants who meet an income threshold a 10% discount on monthly rent payments and said it intends to deploy at least $1B to acquire homes for eligible individuals and families over the next two years.
To qualify for Choice Lease, households must earn 80% or less of the area median income. Choice Lease residents are thus expected to have median annual incomes of about $55K, compared with the median income for homebuyers nationwide of more than $93K.
Renters who qualify for the program will also have the option to purchase their homes at below-market rates, according to Home Partners. The program caps the annual increase on the purchase price of the home at 3.5%.
The investor's business model is somewhat different than other single-family investors. Home Partners buys a property on behalf of a tenant, who then rents it back. At the end of each one-year lease, the tenant has the option to buy the house.
The single-family investment industry has been under considerable scrutiny lately as investors ramp up their buying. During the third quarter of 2021, investors spent over $63B to purchase more than 90,000 homes, an increase of over 80% compared to the same quarter in 2020, according to CoreLogic data.
On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, sent similar open letters to three major single-family home investors — not including Home Partners — castigating them for recent rent hikes, evictions and plans to buy more properties.
The letters also asked for data from the companies on the houses that investors have bought, how much rent they are charging, how much they make from various fees, and their revenue and profits for the last five years.
The open letters were addressed to Progress Residential CEO Chaz Mueller, Invitation Homes CEO Dallas Tanner and American Homes 4 Rent CEO David Singelyn. All of those companies have been active in recent years in acquiring and renting single-family houses in markets nationwide.
"In addition to pricing out first-time homebuyers, investor activity in the rental market has contributed to skyrocketing rents," Warren said in the letters.
American Homes 4 Rent said in a statement that it was “looking to help improve the situation and arrive at solutions,” Bloomberg reports, while Progress Residential said it would work with Warren, and Invitation Homes didn’t immediately comment.