Some U.S. tenants are fighting back in the face of rising rents

Before the start of each month, Anh-Thu Nguyen and her two roommates send a rental check to the landlord. After a few days, the check will be mailed to you.

The bizarre ritual began shortly after a shadowy real estate company called Greenbrook Partners purchased a Brooklyn building in Nguyen in March 2021.

While some neighbors have moved, Nguyen and the tenants of the other four units are economically connected, one of several investor-backed rental housing companies to scrutinize in Washington. I sued Greenbrook.

“We have to fight back,” said Nguyen, who helped organize tenants in other buildings in Greenbrook that were the most purchased during the pandemic, with more than 150 properties in Brooklyn and Queens. I did.

“This has been my home for over 13 years. It’s a great community and I want to stay here … that’s also the right thing to do,” said Nguyen, a trained lawyer working on union labor organization. 39) said.

Nguyen and other activists support a tenant protection bill pending in the New York State Legislature. There is a horror story that rising rents add to today’s historic surge in inflation, with landlords in the unregulated part of the New York rental market seeking an increase of more than 30%.

Charles McNally, Director of Foreign Affairs at the Farman Center, an urban policy research institute at New York University, said:

“It’s a really difficult market for lessees, and inflationary pressures on owners are real.”

-‘Next best tenant’-

Greenbrook was one of the actors highlighted at a February event hosted by the Senate Democratic Party, and Nguyen described himself as a “non-optimal tenant” for such a company.

“Their goal is to maximize profits, not the stability associated with long-term tenants,” she told the panel.

Housing experts told the Senator that the cast of shell companies and subsidiaries, which are frequently changed to official ownership documents, hinders tenant accountability.

They also said that some companies are targeting traditionally non-white areas where home prices are skyrocketing.

Proponents of rental companies say restrictions on landlords can discourage necessary investments, and the industry is scapegoated due to the issue of affordable housing, a complex issue with many factors. increase.

They also point out estimates that Wall Street-backed businesses make up a small portion of the US rental housing stock. According to housing experts, it is based on old pre-pandemic data.

Recent news reports are full of urban changes such as Atlanta and Jacksonville, boosting inventory available to Wall Street-backed rental companies and pricing some first-time homeowners. ..

-‘Exclusion of good reason’-

Residents of Greenbrook have also been endorsed by key New York politicians, including Senator Chuck Schumer, who led the rally where Greenbrook was booed last month, and Senator Jabari Brisport.

“Fight, fight, fight! Housing is a human right,” the group advocated in support of the “moving out for good reason.” The bill will also limit rent increases for apartments with market-based rental contracts.

Much of the real estate industry opposes the law, including Brian Riff, who sells two condos, rather than risking renting two condos under such a bill. landlord.

“The state is basically not going to risk transferring our property,” said Riff, a 50-year-old software engineer who owns a Harlem building consisting of eight apartments to rent a unit.

The rally was held outside Brooklyn’s Aneta Morenda’s house. Aneta Morenda has no active debt and housing is out of control after fighting a 50% rent increase in Greenbrook.

“I’m very worried about the situation in my home,” Morenda told AFP.

Greenbrook Partners usually declined to comment and did not respond to multiple queries from AFP.

The company’s website states that it targets “insufficiently maintained, poorly managed, and undercapitalized assets in New York City’s growth-oriented, transitional submarkets.”

According to the New York City real estate database, Greenbrook and its affiliates own 153 properties.

After previously appearing under the name Greg Fournier, Greenbrook’s principal, the property is now listed under “FreestonePropertyGroup”. Nguyen believes Freestone is a subsidiary of Greenbrook.

As a private company, Greenbrook does not publish financial statements. Real estate media outlets describe the partnership between private equity giant Carlyle Group and UK investment firm NW1 Partners.

Neither Carlyle nor NW1 responded to AFP’s request for comment.

jmb / bfm / to