Who owns affordable housing in the United States?

Authors: Renee Tapp*, University of Illinois At Chicago
Topics: Economic Geography, Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: housing crisis, ownership, monopolies, antitrust, arbitrage, private equity, REITs
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This article contributes to debates within the financialization literature by examining the rise of monopolies in US rental housing markets. Using a dataset of all multifamily real estate transactions taken from the poorest census tracts in the United States (so-called “Opportunity Zones”), this paper identifies the business strategies that have allowed a small number of financial investors to exert greater control of the rental housing market. It does this by showing how record-levels of merger and acquisition activity concentrates ownership of affordable housing among investors; and how increased corporate structural complexity allows private equity firms, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and institutional investors to successfully arbitrage between public and private valuations. Consequently, large firms have achieved structural dominance in the rental housing market and are able to leverage their power to distort prices. As such, this article develops a new antitrust framework for the financialization of housing literatures and offers critical lessons for government officials, and housing organizers and activists.

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