CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing the Charlotte area.
What's making it even tougher is the number of corporate-owned rental homes.
In recent years, corporate investors have greatly increased their investments in single-family homes for the purpose of converting them into rental properties. Charlotte is consistently at the top of the list for high levels of this investor activity.
Mecklenburg County Commissioners are looking for ways to address the issue.
“The issue impacts the entire community," Mecklenburg County Commissioner Mark Jerrell said.
According to the real estate firm Redfin, more than 30% of all homes in Charlotte over the past two quarters have gone to investors, taking homes that residents could have bought.
“Regular people like me and other families cannot compete with that,” Jessica Moreno, advocate for grassroots community organization Action NC, said.
County staff recommends several different ideas on how to tackle the problem, including HOAs limiting rentals in their communities, or continuing to invest in more affordable housing programs.
Monica Allen, the county's director of strategic planning and evaluation, said policy changes could create issues.
"When governments took these hard stances around code enforcement, that some of the corporations, not all but some, raised the rent because what they were trying to get the money so they could make better environments, and that created displacement,” Allen said.
Right now, county leaders hope more people will come to the table to address the problem.
The county has begun the process of retaining a consultant to assist in this effort. Once a facilitator is selected and a community engagement strategy is approved, the county is hopeful that listening sessions can begin in February or March 2023.
This comes as a new report shows North Carolina has a corporate landlord problem: Large investors now own over 40,000 single-family homes in North Carolina.
Moreno says corporate landlords gobble up houses not giving first-time home buyers a chance, they burden tenants with rising rents and are more likely to evict tenants.
“It’s affecting a lot of people," Moreno said.
Some of these corporate rental companies are owned or backed by private equity firms that receive funding from public pension systems, including the North Carolina Retirement System (NCRS).
The report shows The North Carolina Retirement System has committed more than $3.2 billion to one such private equity firm, Landmark Partners, since 2014.
This matters because Landmark is a major investor in Progress Residential, the largest single-family rental company in the U.S. with over 7,700 homes in North Carolina.
“It’s alarming that North Carolina is investing in literally the displacement of the people they’re supposed to be serving," Moreno said.
The report asks the North Carolina retirement system to halt any new commitments to private firms buying up single-family houses, so housing can be attainable for everyone.
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