MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Nation of Renters | Chronicles

Posted by M. C. on August 5, 2021

https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/nation-of-renters/

By Pedro Gonzalez

There is a storm on the horizon. Rootless corporations, major financial institutions, and the federal government are poised to fundamentally change the way Americans live by separating them from property ownership. The peculiar conjunctures of our time are paving a winding road to villeinage, with each turn bringing to clearer view the future of rent-serfdom awaiting most Americans.   As the nation locked down last year, rent protections that continue today sheltered tenants from eviction. Independent of intentionality, these measures kneecapped mom-and-pop landlords—individuals who are more likely to own single units, homes, and duplexes. “The long-term concern here, over the course of a few years, is that a growing share of mom-and-pop landlords will be forced to sell and rents will go up,” Peter Hepburn, an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University who researches housing inequality, told Bloomberg News. “There’s a lot of private equity interest and a real possibility of growing consolidation.”   Many smaller landlords report vulture-like solicitations to sell from major real estate firms waiting to swoop down on the carcass. With more than 6 million renter households behind on rent, they feel as if the system is stacked against them, and for good reason.   Accompanying eviction moratoriums last year was the CARES Act. Americans took home stimulus checks, but wealthy hedge fund investors and real estate firms silently reaped billions in tax breaks while mom-and-pop landlords received comparatively little assistance. Among the financial giants that have taken a renewed interest in real estate is BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager.   BlackRock is powerfully connected both in America and abroad. It recently became the first global asset manager licensed to start a wholly-owned onshore mutual fund business in China. Domestically, Chief Executive Larry Fink has raised a shadow government of former Treasury Department officials to insulate BlackRock from regulators.   The firm’s influence is felt everywhere; it has even recently dipped into progressive politics. By using its voting power to compel Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Kroger to stop selling or severely restrict the sale of firearms and ammunition, BlackRock has practically enacted a de facto form of gun control. In April, it announced a racial audit to determine how it may have “contributed to racial inequities in the financial system.”

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Pedro Gonzalez

Pedro Gonzalez is the Associate Editor at Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. 

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