Raphael Warnock Raised The Alarm On Big Corporations Buying Up Homes, But Took Thousands From Wall Street Execs At A Firm Doing Just That

  • Sen. Raphael Warnock raised concerns in July over large corporations buying up homes in his state but has raked in tens of thousands from Wall Street executives at a firm doing just that.
  • The Georgia Democrat has taken almost $38,000 since 2020 from top employees at Blackstone, the largest private equity firm worldwide, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. 
  • “When corporate landlords convert those properties to rental stock, new renters for such renovated single-family apartments are likely to be non-African Americans,” Brian An, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock recently sounded the alarm on big corporations buying up swathes of homes in his state. However, he’s taken campaign donations from Wall Street executives at a private equity firm engaged in that very practice.

Warnock’s campaign has raked in almost $38,000 since 2020 from executives at Blackstone, a Wall Street firm with a roughly $130 billion market cap buying up homes in Georgia and across the U.S., according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. At the same time, Warnock said in a July hearing Georgia is “in the middle of a housing crisis” and raised concerns “over large institutional investors,” which some experts say are driving up rent prices and displacing minority communities.

“Georgians don’t have the luxury of waiting several years for home prices and rents to fall,” the senator said in the July Senate Banking Committee hearing, which addressed corporate investors buying up homes in Georgia and rising property costs.

“I think we need research to effectively understand how private equity is impacting markets in Atlanta and Georgia and across the country, and I look forward to introducing legislation very soon to address that very issue,” Warnock added during the July hearing.

Brian An, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning, told the Daily Caller News Foundation neighborhoods targeted by corporate investors tend to be where the majority of residents and home sellers are black.

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“When this happens, African American (would-be) individual homebuyers fare relatively worse than other race groups in terms of bidding/purchasing for those homes considered by corporate investors,” An, who authored a July study on declining black homeownership in areas with corporate investors, wrote in an email to the DCNF.

“When corporate landlords convert those properties to rental stock, new renters for such renovated single-family apartments are likely to be non-African Americans,” An said.

David Levine, Blackstone’s co-head of U.S. real estate acquisitions who has been involved in $100 billion worth of real estate investments since joining the company in 2010, gave Warnock’s campaign $2,900 in February. Michael Nash, who is the co-founder and chairman of Blackstone’s real estate debt strategies group, also gave the senator’s campaign $2,900 in February.

Blackstone has spent billions on Atlanta properties since at least 2013, according to multiple reports. The New York-based company notably spent $100 million in 2013 on 1,400 Atlanta properties, which at the time was the largest bulk purchase in the homes-for-lease industry, Bloomberg reported.

Around 16% of the properties it purchased in 2013 were Section 8 housing, in which low-income tenants obtain federal aid, the outlet reported.

The private equity giant invested $300 million in Tricon Residential in 2020 and founded a separate company in 2012 called Invitation Homes, which it sold in 2019. Both companies reportedly own thousands of single-family homes in metro-Atlanta.

The company also invested hundreds of millions into north and south Atlanta suburban apartments in 2021, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported, including $50 million for apartments in Clayton County. Black residents comprise over 73% of residents in the county, according to the Census Bureau, and the county has a roughly 17% poverty rate.

Blackstone executives claimed in February 2022 its rental investments were intended to offset inflation, the New York Times reported.

A spokesman for Blackstone told the DCNF it has a portfolio company called Home Partners of America that owns roughly 0.2% of the “total home stock” in Georgia. The portfolio company has a $1 billion program “to help low-to-moderate-income families and historically under-represented communities” by letting residents buy their homes “at a price likely below market value, as well as rents 10% below market,” the spokesman said.

“In the typical Washington Way, Raphael Warnock is lining his pocket with campaign cash while Georgians get kicked to the curb and struggle to pay for gas groceries as a result of his disastrous voting record,” Stephen Lawson, a Republican strategist in Georgia, told the DCNF. “Warnock is playing evictor in chief — but come November, the voters will have the final say, and it’ll be Warnock who gets left out in the cold.”

But Fred Hicks, a pro-Warnock political consultant in Georgia, pushed back on the idea that it is hypocritical for Warnock’s campaign to take money from Blackstone while criticizing private equity firms.

“It’s less than 1% of what he’s raised,” Hicks told the DCNF. “This is one of the most important races in the country and I’d expect that several small donors would have donated to both candidates. Republicans are going to do what they have to do to score points.”

Over 42% of for-sale homes in the Atlanta metro were sold to corporate investors during the third quarter of 2021, according to MarketWatch. Democratic Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens told Bloomberg in June there should be a limit on investors buying homes.

The median Georgia home price skyrocketed 14% between April 2021 and April 2022, the outlet reported, and rent hikes have led to higher eviction rates across Georgia. Investors comprised around 60% of home purchases in 2021 in South Fulton, Atlanta’s 30349 Zip Code, the Washington Post reported, which has an over 91% black population and a more than 19% poverty rate.

“Raphael Warnock will do anything he can to keep his seat in Washington, even if it means abandoning the people he is obligated to represent,” a spokeswoman for the Georgia Republican Party told the DCNF.

Warnock will face off in November against Republican candidate Herschel Walker, a retired NFL player. The senator leads Walker by two points, according to a FiveThirtyEight polling average.

Warnock’s campaign did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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