Predatory Equity: An Introduction

The Organizing and Policy department of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board works to enable the preservation of tens of thousands of units of affordable housing that are currently at risk as a result of “predatory equity.”

Predatory Equity is a phenomenon that exists in many US cities when private equity investors acquire and substantially overleverage rent restricted housing (rent-stabilized, Mitchell Lama, Section Eight) for the explicit purpose of removing regulation, raising rents, and displacing low and moderate income families. This problem has intensified as market conditions have changed and investors have been unable to realize their anticipated returns. The predatory equity buildings that we identify and work with have been starved of maintenance and services, resulting in a severe decline in physical conditions.

The national and local predatory equity crisis that we fight requires concerted intervention on the part of local, state, and federal governments to ensure that low-income communities maintain their right to live in safe affordable housing. Our work is at the forefront of innovative policy solutions which lead to opportunities for the preservation and recapture of this housing stock as affordable through transfers to tenants and tenant endorsed non- profit housing providers.

To tackle this problem, UHAB employs a number of tools:

  • We track and monitor the 70,000 units in our internal database for changes in conditions, loan performance status and ownership;
  • We provide direct technical assistance to a minimum of  eight active portfolios of overleveraged buildings, and assist residents in advocating directly with local and state agencies to support preservation proposals ;
  • We empower tenants at a grassroots level by providing information and leading collective brainstorming about ways to identify and pressure strategic targets;
  • We work with elected officials and housing agency staff to identify a minimum of five lenders and Special Services who can be pressured to negotiate preservation sales of at-risk buildings and portfolios;
  • We work with state and city legislators to explore expanded foreclosure legislation that would give individual city governments the authority to regulate private foreclosure auctions to ensure buyers are qualified and purchase prices are supportable;
  • We seek to negotiate with lenders to assist with preservation outcomes.

While UHAB has had substantial victories, we still have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us in order to create systemic solutions for the preservation of the housing stock affected by the threat of Predatory Equity. We continue to do this work in attempts to make lenders and landlords more accountable and transparent so that ultimately, we will be able to provide programmatic solutions, additional capital resources, and coordination among housing agencies, tenants, elected officials, and advocates to successfully deal with this problem.  For updates, read more here.


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