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Corporate landlords love Atlanta

Metro Atlanta, like many parts of the U.S., is facing an affordable housing crisis, according to a 2022 book by fellow GSU researcher Dan Immergluck.

Corporate landlords may be one of the reasons for that, with their ownership share of single-family homes ballooning after the 2007 foreclosure crisis and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. During these challenging economic times, these large entities were able to snap up homes for a good price and then rent them out for a profit.

The common argument against corporate ownership is that they’re hurting regular buyers by driving up costs and exacerbating the shortage of homes for sale.

In the final quarter of 2023, real estate investors bought 26.1% of low-priced U.S. homes that sold, which was the highest share on record and up 24% from a year earlier, according to Redfin analysis.

The data shows that this is happening nationwide, but according to Shelton, Atlanta is the largest market for corporate landlord activity in the country. In a GSU article about his research, he said: “You have to add up the next two or three largest markets in the U.S. together to have the same amount of corporate landlord investment that Atlanta has.”

He explained why: “Corporate landlords like places that are growing, and they like places where housing is relatively cheap. But the other box that Atlanta checks is that we have very lax tenant protections.”

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Limiting corporate ownership of homes

The WSB-TV Channel 2 report about the GSU research triggered thousands of comments about the damage that large corporations are inflicting on local housing markets.

One person said corporate landlords are “wiping out the middle class,” while another wrote: “Shame on local governments for allowing this.” Many highlighted what they see as corporate “greed” and accused lawmakers of only caring for the interests of large corporate entities.

This widespread public frustration has, in fact, triggered a string of regulatory proposals at the state and federal level to try and curb corporate ownership of single-family homes and improve housing affordability in the U.S.

Two congressional bills — the Stop Wall Street Landlords Act and the End Hedge Fund Control of American Homes Act of 2023 — would ban large corporations from owning single-family homes and impose punitive taxes to stop the practice.

In February 2024, a bill (AB-2584) was introduced in California, which would ban companies from owning more than 1,000 homes in the state, and in Nebraska, a bill was introduced to forbid out-of-state corporations from buying up the local housing stock.

As for Georgia, this has been a contentious issue for quite some time. In 2023, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on a Georgia state legislative committee, which argued local zoning rules and building design standards were inhibiting construction and exacerbating the housing shortage. This, when combined with corporate landlord activity, has worsened affordability for many home buyers.

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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