Warren Calls Out Blackstone for ‘Shameless’ Profits From Housing

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Blackstone noted that in fact it began purchasing homes through its subsidiary, Invitation Homes, in 2012, after the housing crisis that began in 2008 had abated. The company said vacant homes were dragging down property values for surrounding homes, and Blackstone’s purchases and billion-dollar investments in renovations boosted local economies and employment. The firm was spending $150 million a week buying single-family homes.

“Though we are only a tiny percentage of the housing market, we are proud of our investments, which are helping address the housing shortage by adding high-quality, professionally managed rental housing, while contributing to local economies and creating jobs — all on behalf of our investors, which include retirement systems for millions of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other pensioners,” said Jen Friedman, senior vice president for global public affairs at Blackstone.

Blackstone is one of the world’s largest real-estate investors, and has about $554 billion in total assets under management. The business is so profitable it has made both founder Stephen Schwarzman and president Jonathan Gray, who oversaw Blackstone’s massive real estate growth, billionaires several times over.

Warren has singled out some of the largest U.S. corporations, includingFacebook Inc.,Exxon Mobil Corp.,Walmart Inc., andWells Fargo & Co., as she campaigns for the Democratic nomination by championing working- and middle-class families. The Massachusetts senator promised to break up big corporations, crack down on their political influence and enforce strict regulations on Wall Street.

She has also engaged infights with such Wall Street figures as Lloyd Blankfein and Leon Cooperman.

Warren’s latest attack comes in a policy proposal to withhold federal funding from corporate landlords with a history of “harassing” tenants. Corporate landlords would be required to publicly disclose data like median rent, the number of tenants they’ve evicted and building code violations, as well as the names of any individuals with an ownership interest of 25% or more.

Warren also pointed to Blackstone’s $5.3 billion deal to buy New York’s Stuyvesant Town, an 80-acre Manhattan development with more than 11,000 apartments. Under the terms of the deal, about 5,000 of those apartments would remain “affordable” for 20 years, according to anannouncement by New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio.

Warren has proposed spending $500 billion to build about 3 million housing units in the U.S., and also said her administration would provide a nationwide right-to-counsel and establish a federal grant program aimed at benefiting low-income tenants facing eviction. She said she’d create a federal Tenant Protection Bureau, modeled after theConsumer Financial Protection Bureau, a key component of the 2010 Wall Street overhaul legislation that she advocated.

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