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UNC Charlotte study sheds light on Charlotte's struggle with corporate landlords

Researchers are working with community organizations to seek solutions for tenants feeling taken advantage of by corporations.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UNC Charlotte researchers are seeking solutions to the city’s struggle with corporate landlords. They interviewed renters living in corporate-owned housing and shared their stories with the community Wednesday night.

Data shows corporations are buying up thousands of houses and renting them out in the Charlotte area. Now, UNC Charlotte researchers are saying tenants feel stuck and taken advantage of by the companies.  

"Horrible, trapped, overpriced, soulless — so these are very powerful words residents were using,” assistant professor Michelle Zuñiga said during her presentation.

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UNC Charlotte researchers interviewed 30 people renting from corporate landlords. Wednesday night, they met with the community and Action NC to talk about the issues and main themes they found. 

While previous studies by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute focused on data, Zuñiga's class's research focused on telling the stories of people behind the numbers.

According to the study, 63% of tenants interviewed said they felt trapped and 77% said they've dealt with high rent increases.

Researchers and advocates are calling it “corporate greed.” They said corporate landlords are jacking up rent and beating out first-time home buyers in sales.  

According to Mecklenburg County data, large corporations made up 32% of all home sales in the fourth Quarter of 2021, which is a 93% increase from the year prior.  That same county report says median rent prices for houses jumped 27% during the pandemic. 

“They have this unchecked power and tenants don’t have any," one UNC Charlotte student and researcher said.  

The UNC Charlotte study found renters see some benefits to company-owned housing, like the neighborhood and location, but they wish there were more options to pick from.  

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“So yeah, location matters," Zuñiga admitted, "but at the same time, corporate landlords are taking advantage of this.” 

Researchers gave policy recommendations they think would help solve these issues. They would like to see more oversight of corporations, limits on their expansion into new markets, and caps on how much they can raise tenants’ rent when they renew their leases.

Plus, researchers suggested more transparency with hidden fees renters are often surprised with when applying for a home.

Contact Julia Kauffman at jkauffman@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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