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."
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.
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
- City of Charlotte to give 7 properties for affordable housing. Now they need developers to build them.
- New west Charlotte housing development promises affordable housing in historic Black neighborhood
- 'We still cannot neglect our roots' | Longtime Uptown Charlotte residents concerned about gentrification pushing people out
- How Charlotte's affordable housing crisis affects everyone
Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Stitcher || Google Podcasts
All of WCNC Charlotte's podcasts are free and available for both streaming and download. You can listen now on Android, iPhone, Amazon, and other internet-connected devices. Join us from North Carolina, South Carolina, or on the go anywhere.