Billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group, is one of the richest people in the world. In 2017, he drew a massive income of $786 million — and he’s worth $13.2 billion. It’s why Blackstone and its subsidiary, Invitation Homes, shelled out a whopping $7.4 million in campaign cash to defeat Proposition 10 — the 2018 ballot measure that would have expanded rent control in California. He didn’t want anyone messing with his profits.
Blackstone is the largest real estate private equity firm in the world, with assets of $119 billion that include 296,000 residential units and homes. Blackstone’s Invitation Homes, whose serious mistreatment of tenants was the subject of a 2018 Reuters special report, is one of the biggest landlords in the U.S. of single-family rental homes. Blackstone makes king-sized profits by charging king-sized rents — and Schwarzman makes a killing.
Schwarzman’s billions bankroll swanky parties for the rich and famous and at least five lavish homes in New York City, Saint-Tropez, Jamaica, East Hampton, and Palm Beach, where he spends winter weekends.
In California, though, nurses, teachers, and first responders struggle to pay skyrocketing rents and can’t afford even one home in the communities that they serve. And too many residents are homeless or at risk of becoming homelessness. That includes seniors on fixed incomes and college students.
Back in Palm Beach, Schwarzman is a neighbor to Donald Trump. Schwarzman and Trump are tight. The billionaire contributed $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, and Blackstone gave more than $400 million to the problematic real estate projects of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. According to the Washington Post, “Schwarzman has emerged as one of Trump’s most generous donors, as well as a key adviser with rare and regular access to the president.”
Schwarzman, though, was no fan of President Barack Obama. In 2010, the billionaire compared Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on private equity firms to Nazism. “It’s war,” Schwarzman said. “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”
While Schwarzman compared Obama to Hitler, Wells Fargo released a high-profile study, in 2018, about gender inequity on the boards of real estate investment trusts (REIT). Invitation Homes’ record was abysmal. From 2016 through 2018, Invitation Homes’ board was comprised of only 9 percent women — top-rated REITs have boards of 40 or 38 percent. In terms of female representation on its board, Invitation Homes was ranked the third worst out of 165 REITs studied.
Bill Ferguson, chief executive of Ferguson Partners, which also researched gender inequity on REIT boards, told the Wall Street Journal: “To be frank, the REIT industry is not the most enlightened group when it comes to diversity around the table.”
Stephen Schwarzman and other billionaire landlords will do anything to make more billions, disregarding the hard-working people that they hurt. Corporate greed, in fact, has helped cause California’s housing-affordability and homeless crises — the worst in the nation.
But there is a solution: the Rental Affordability Act.
The 2020 statewide ballot measure puts reasonable limits on excessive rents — and checks corporate landlord greed. It returns power to us, and guarantees that landlords will make a fair rate of return. Support the Rental Affordability Act.
(After the above video was released, Blackstone and Invitation Homes gave additional monies to oppose Prop 10.)