Many people claim real estate investors cause homelessness by owning rentals and charging rent, however, they can play a significant role in preventing homelessness by implementing various strategies that promote affordable housing, stability, and supportive services. Real estate investors also provide rentals which are the next step from homelessness as most people in a dire housing situation are not able to buy for various reasons. Here are some key ways real estate investors can contribute to preventing homelessness:
Did landlords cause real estate prices to increase?
There is a growing trend stating that landlords are not needed and the world would be better off without them. This stance is backed up by many statements that tend to be grossly exaggerated or simply false. I am a landlord and of course, I am biased but I have been an investor, agent, author, and influencer in the real estate space for 20 years. I have seen what happens in the real world and know a thing or two about real estate. Many of the opinions about landlords and real estate investors stem from Facebook pages, politicians, or even educators who have zero experience with real estate.
Landlords do not push up prices because they are buying all the houses. In fact, the owner-occupied rate has increased from 62 percent to 66 percent from 2016 to 2023. There are 11 million more owner-occupied units in 2023 compared to 2016 and about the same amount of rental units. The truth is real estate investors have been selling much more than buying.
Rents have been rising because there are fewer rentals available due to landlords selling. That is simple supply and demand. Some people claim landlords buying all the houses is causing rents to go up, but that is the opposite of what happens in the economy when supply increases. The real cause of prices going up is the cost to build, replacement costs, and development costs.
How are landlords needed?
Some hypothesize that if landlords were eliminated (yes some advocate violence) housing would be more affordable and more people could buy. The problem with this theory is that not everyone can or wants to buy. Some people have bad credit or no job history which prevents them from getting a loan. Some want to travel or simply don’t want to buy a house. The theory that all landlords should disappear ignores these people and just assumes they will magically be able to buy a house because prices will be cheaper without landlords.
The theory that housing will be cheaper without landlords comes from the idea that a bunch of housing will be available to buy. However, that housing has occupants and renters living in the homes. There will not be a lot of housing to buy unless you kick those renters out. Sure some renters may be able to buy the house they are currently living in but there still won’t be a massive influx of supply unless there are millions of homeless renters. These theories also assume everyone will get a loan after the laws are all changed eliminating credit and other loan requirements. We saw what happened with loosened lending guidelines in 2008.
Without landlords, there will be massive amounts of homeless because the step from homelessness to housing is a rental not buying. Some people might say more social housing is needed. I can see that argument but landlords are not stopping more social housing from being created, in fact, they help create the social housing that exists.
How do landlords prevent homelessness?
The United States has many programs for those in need including Section 8 housing vouchers, local city and state programs, and affordable housing grants and tax benefits. Most social housing is not built or run by the government, it is run by investors. The government encourages affordable housing projects to be built and redeveloped but they are not the ones doing the work. It is real estate investors who build and create these properties. The US is not alone in this either. Many people point to Austria as having massive social housing programs. They fail to realize that private investors own most of that social housing. Section 8 vouchers are used on properties owned by investors, not the government.
House flippers also buy properties that are unlivable and make them livable again creating more houses which helps reduce homelessness and increases the housing supply as well. I have brought many single-family and multifamily properties up to livable standards after buying them vacant. Do I make money when I do this? Hopefully! If investors do not take on these projects, no one will and there will be less housing and more expensive housing because of supply and demand principles.
Real estate investors also build housing. They build apartments and even single-family homes. Do these turn into rentals? Yes, but that still adds inventory to the market which means more choices for buyers or renters. More inventory means a more stable housing market and fewer opportunities for out-of-control price increases.
Should real estate investors be restricted on what they can buy or build?
There are many people, including people in the real estate industry who feel real estate investors should be restricted on what they can buy or build. The government is trying to restrict investors from buying properties as well. Many of these programs are aimed at huge institutional investors but they are a tiny part of the real estate market. They own less than 1 percent of housing.
As I stated before there is a shortage of rentals on the market. That is why rents have been increasing so much.
The best way to increase rents and increase housing prices is to limit supply which is exactly what more restrictions on investors will do. The most expensive markets in the country have the most restrictions. Many large institutional investors are building houses as well when we desperately need more houses to be built! I can’t believe some of the people saying this is bad and must be stopped.
Without real estate investors there would be less housing, more homelessness, higher prices, and pretty much a disaster. Investors create affordable housing and putting more restrictions on them will discourage them from doing so and create less affordable housing.