Whenever there’s a problem in the economy that hurts families and drives up prices, there’s a good chance you’ll find a Wall Street scheme causing it or taking advantage of it or making it worse.
And that’s exactly what’s happening in our housing market.
Private equity firms and big investors all across Ohio and the country saw a housing shortage, and a captive market of families who needed affordable places to live. So, they bought up properties, raised rents, and cut maintenance. They priced out family homebuyers, and they forced renters out of their homes.
VineBrook Homes is just one example of these bad actors.
VineBrook has bought up more than 27,000 single-family homes in 20 states, including more than 3,000 homes in Cincinnati.
Many residents of VineBrook’s Cincinnati properties have contacted my office reporting neglectful ownership practices.
One resident reached out for help after she submitted multiple maintenance requests to get her heat repaired. VineBrook failed to respond, and the resident was left without heat for weeks in the dead of winter.
In fact, maintenance issues have been so common at Vinebrook properties that the City of Cincinnati sued the company for unpaid fines, fees, and water bills. Some of the company’s properties were so dangerous that the city ordered them to be vacated.
On top of that, Vinebrook has a pattern of aggressively raising rents and evicting hardworking tenants from their homes. VineBrook is now the top evictor in Cincinnati and as one of Ms. Cotleur’s colleagues at Cincinnati legal aid said, VineBrook is “one of the worst landlords in our service area.”
Now, no one is arguing that landlords or property owners shouldn’t be able to make a living.
Of course, rental housing is a business: Owners provide a decent place to live, in exchange for collecting people’s hard-earned money in rent each month.
But if your building doesn’t have working heat, or isn’t being maintained, or if you’re jumping at the chance to evict tenants and to set them up for surprise fees – you’re not holding up your end of the deal.
That’s not a real business. And Ohio families and communities are paying a very high price for it.
Where we live matters. It determines so much about our lives, and our children’s lives.
That’s why I wrote to VineBrook this week to get more information on their business model and to hold them accountable for neglecting and exploiting hardworking families across Ohio.
It’s unacceptable. We won’t let VineBrook or any other investor jeopardize the lives of hard-working Ohioans.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the U.S. Senate.