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Corporate landlords are gobbling up Charlotte's affordable homes and there's little the city can do to stop them

Wall Street investment firms are gobbling up Charlotte's affordable houses and one expert says there's little city officials can do about it.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wall Street firms currently own more than 11,500 homes in Mecklenburg County, according to the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. 

That represents about 5% of the county's single-family housing, and it's part of a trend that started after the Great Recession that's picked up steam in recent years. As a result, rental properties can be lucrative businesses in the tight housing market. 

"These companies have created a whole new business model where they have permanent rentals," said Ely Portillo, the assistant director of outreach and strategic partnerships at UNC Charlotte's Urban Institute.

According to Portillo, corporate landlords have focused their investments on the affordable housing market.

"It's really concentrated in the part of the market where first-time homebuyers want to be," Portillo said. "And that's also where we've seen the biggest inventory shortage."

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Equipped with cash offers and willing to pay over asking price, the firms often outbid first time homebuyers and turn properties into rentals. Broadly, the trend can deprive families of owning a home, traditionally one of the most common ways to build wealth in America. Disproportionately, the firms have purchased homes west, east, and north of Charlotte.

RELATED: As the end of the eviction moratorium looms, Mecklenburg County residents have a lifeline for help paying rent

Portillo says there's little city leaders can do to stop the trend. On the upside, rentals often open up in neighborhoods to residents who otherwise couldn't afford to buy. 

"These are private firms buying private property in private transactions," he said. "There's an issue of equity if you're banning rental housing in single-family housing." 

Still, some worry that Wall Street landlords are worried about the bottom line, not the character of a neighborhood.   

"If you have a bunch of people being evicted or a bunch houses not being maintained, that can have an impact on a neighborhood," Portillo said. 

So far, it's not clear the long-term impacts of the trend. Portillo said the end of the recent eviction moratorium will likely have an impact on these communities. 

Previous coverage of Charlotte's affordable housing crisis

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