Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Maricopa County constable Darlene Martinez escorts a family out of their apartment after serving an eviction order for non-payment of rent on September 30, 2020 in Phoenix. (Photo: John Moore via Getty Images)

A Maricopa County constable escorts a family out of their apartment after serving an eviction order for non-payment on September 30, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

'Americans Aren't Serfs': House Democrats Propose End to Wall Street Rent-Gouging

"Low- and middle-income families in my district and across the country are being pushed out because of profiteering and unfair practices by large corporate landlords," says Rep. Ro Khanna.

Jon Queally

To help address the nation's housing crisis while at the same time confronting Wall Street greed, three California members of Congress on Saturday touted new legislation to target rent-gouging in the U.S. by private equity firms and investment giants who have gobbled up huge numbers of single-family home and residential units in the years since the 2008 financial crash.

"Wall Street should not be any family's landlord."

Co-authored by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna, Katie Porter, and Mark Takano, the Stop Wall Street Landlords Act aims to "deter future institutional investments" in the Single Family Residential (SFR) market by ending taxpayer subsidies to profit-seekers as a way to help struggling families battling housing costs amid rising inflation.

If enacted into law, the proposal would impose "a tax on existing and future acquisitions of SFRs" by large institutional investors, a statement from the lawmakers explains. The legislation would also prohibit federal lending institutions Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Gennie Mae from purchasing and securitizing mortgages held by Wall Street firms who leverage their size and ability to purchase large numbers single family homes with debt in order to turn around and rent them out for exorbitant profit—a tactic that by itself pushes rental prices ever higher.

Private equity firms and Wall Street rarely if ever strayed into the single-family housing market prior to the 2008 crash, but the market exploded when large firms were given access to trillions in low- or zero-interests dollars over the last decade and as regulators at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) offered subsidies via federal programs such as Fannie and Freddie. In 2015, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was among those blowing the whistle by telling HUD that it had no business colluding with Wall Street in such a way.

"These Wall Street investors made money by crashing the economy, got bailed out and now they're back to feed at the trough again, scooping up these loans at rock-bottom prices so that they profit off them a second time—and it is up to us to stop that!" Warren said to a cheering crowd during a Washington, D.C. rally in 2015.

In remarks posted online Saturday, Khanna said there may have been a time following the 2008 financial crash where it made sense for private entities to step in to buy residential units as a way to stabilize the housing market, but that in the decade since it has become clear that Wall Street investors have exploited government policies and a lack of oversight to fleece millions of renters who find themselves at the mercy of a housing crisis they did nothing to create and have no way to combat.

Khanna said that with 25 percent of single-family homes in the U.S. being bought up by profit-seeking investors, these firms are "hurting the American dream of home ownership" and the economy overall.

"We need to stop the financialization of housing," Khanna said. "Americans aren't serfs. We're not suppose to pay money to Wall Street to go live in a home. What we need is more American families to own their own homes."

"When I was on the front lines of the foreclosure crisis, I saw firsthand how corporate special interests take advantage of families to line their pockets," said Congresswoman Porter in a statement. "The Stop Wall Street Landlords Act promotes affordable homeownership, so that our kids can live in the same communities they grew up in. I am proud to work with Representatives Khanna and Takano to hold Wall Street accountable."

Takano said, "Wall Street should not be any family's landlord."

“As the housing crisis continues to plague the country, America's middle class is acutely feeling the constraints of our nation's low housing stock and increasing prices," added Takano. "Meanwhile, wealthy investors drive these costs up by monopolizing ownership of single-family residences. The Stop Wall Street Landlords Act takes the urgent steps needed to keep corporate investors out of the single-family housing market."

According to Khanna, "Low- and middle-income families in my district and across the country are being pushed out because of profiteering and unfair practices by large corporate landlords. This legislation will help level the playing field and put a stop to rent gouging in America."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·

Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·

Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·

With GOP House Control Looming, Pascrell Calls for Swift Release of Trump Tax Records

"Donald Trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 days we have finally obtained the documents," said the New Jersey Democrat. "We should review and release them."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo