CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As outside investors snap up thousands of area homes and turn them into rentals, the growing practice is taking center stage at the nation's capital.
A Charlotte Journalism Collaborative investigation recently identified Wall Street-backed landlords that have acquired homes in the area, often offering cash over asking price.
On Wednesday, a Washington Post investigation found Black neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by the practice. The Post's investigation found, over the last six years, investors doubled the percentage of homes they bought in Charlotte. In northwest Charlotte's 28214 zip code more than half of all home sales went to these rental companies, instead of individual buyers, according to the newspaper's findings.
Just last week, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs heard institutional landlord horror stories from across the country. Just two days later, the committee learned more about how institutional landlords are impacting the housing market.
Action NC Housing Justice Organizer Jessica Maria Moreno says there's a growing call for more oversight of corporate landlords, which include single-family rental companies. A Charlotte Journalism Collaborative analysis found SFR companies acquired at least 4,100 homes, condos and townhouses in a five-county area over a 12-month period. That equates to roughly 5% of all sales.
"We're really trying to get people together and to stop them, to slow them down," Moreno said. "There has to be some oversight. Their goal is profit and so, what we're seeing is that every single year, someone that's been living in a property, maybe starts at $1,200, in a couple years they're paying $1,900, close to $2,000 for rent."
While advocates like Moreno want the government to step in, National Rental Home Council Executive Director David Howard argues the small number of institutional owners in the Charlotte market are not impacting home prices, rental rates or competition.
"There's absolutely no data and no evidence to support the contention that single-family rental home companies do anything but provide a positive housing option for consumers," Howard said.
He cited data that shows Charlotte rents at SFR-owned properties increased at a lower rate than the rental market overall. A report by CoreLogic identified SFR rentals increases up 12% in November 2021 compared to the same month a year prior. Another report, by ApartmentList, identified an overall market rent increase of around 19% in November.
Mireya Gaton lives in a Gastonia rental home. She signed a year lease with one of the area's largest SFR buying companies for roughly $1,700 a month and said she has no complaints.
"I love it," Gaton said. "My experience has been the best as a renter."
Senators made something clear during last week's committee hearing: the issue is split down political lines.
"While most of us see high rents and a lack of housing choices as a problem to solve, deep-pocketed investors see an opportunity for profit," Chairman Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said in his opening remarks. "Investment firms have been touting rising rents and renters' lack of options to attract investors."
"Instead of blaming those who actually build housing stock, Democrats should take a look at their own role in creating this disaster," Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA) said in his opening remarks. "Housing is expensive and getting more expensive in part because this administration has doubled down on 50 years of failed big government housing policies."
WCNC Charlotte reached out to committee member Sen. Thom Tillis' (R-NC) staff multiple times and shared the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative's findings, but did not hear back.
WCNC Charlotte is part of six major media companies and other local institutions producing I Can’t Afford to Live Here, a collaborative reporting project focused on solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.