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Money in Politics

Schumer Let Eviction Ban Lapse as His Former Aide Oversaw Lobbying for Blackstone

Congressional Democrats and the White House Blamed Each Other, Now Blackstone and Other Landlords Are Ramping Up Evictions

Sen. Maj. Leader Chuck Schumer speaks with journalists at the US Capitol on Tuesday.

 

(Image: Photo by Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images.)

Amid the ongoing eviction crisis, Sen. Maj. Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has branded himself as pro-tenant, but also has a long-standing, close relationship with one of the nation’s largest landlords and institutional investors: Blackstone. Schumer’s ties to Blackstone are so strong that he is included in the company’s marketing materials and one of his former senior aides now works as Blackstone’s managing director of government relations.

In public statements, Schumer has been one of the most staunch advocates for extending housing protections to millions of Americans struggling to pay the bills in the midst of this pandemic.

Late last year, Schumer and other senior Democrats called on Pres. Biden to extend eviction protections for renters. But passing the buck was a strategic move to shift blame to the White House while Congress took a hands-off approach. In reality, it was the job of Congress, not the executive branch, to take action. And Congress hasn’t.

Even progressive Democrats last summer pleaded with Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to extend the eviction moratorium. Congressional leaders and the White House each said the other had to act.

By contrast, state legislators in New York, Schumer’s home state, have taken action. They extended the moratorium for New York on their own, independent of the federal government. On Jan. 15, even that extension expired, putting millions of renters at risk.

Schumer isn’t the only congressional Democrat blaming the White House while maintaining ties with Wall Street landlords. As TYT previously reported, House Maj. Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has benefited from campaign donations made by some of the world’s largest institutional investors, including Goldman Sachs, Carlyle Group and Invesco.

For Schumer, his relationship lies with Blackstone — an institutional investor that also happens to be one of New York City’s biggest landlords — a company which was slammed by the United Nations in 2019 for exploiting the global housing crisis.

The UN reportedly accused the company and “its subsidiaries of undertaking ‘aggressive evictions’ to protect its rental income streams, shrinking the pool of affordable housing in some areas, and effectively pushing low and middle-income tenants from their homes.” This was before the pandemic.

Blackstone and its business interests are invested in residential properties around the country.

According to the Private Equity and Corporate Landlord Evictions Tracker, Blackstone has filed eviction proceedings at properties in metro areas including Houston, Phoenix, and Miami.

In June 2021, Blackstone bought Home Partners of America, which owned more than 17,000 single family homes across the country. The deal totaled $6 billion.

Home Partners of America is actively proceeding with evictions across the country. For example, according to FT, Home Partners has at least 184 evictions ongoing in the Orlando, FL, area. The Private Equity and Corporate Landlord Evictions tracker also found Home Partners of America filed eviction proceedings in the Dallas/Ft Worth metropolitan area and in Houston.

Blackstone owns major real estate developments across the nation’s largest city. In 2018, Blackstone bought a nearly 80-acre development with more than 11,000 apartments in Manhattan and a property with almost 1300 apartments in Queens. Even after COVID-19 hit, Blackstone was still pushing to deregulate rents at one of those properties.

According to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, in the two weeks since the New York State eviction moratorium expired, more than 4500 evictions have been filed across the city.

And Blackstone is also funneling resources against affordable-housing measures, funding PACs that lobbied against affordable housing in California. In 2020, Blackstone gave $7 million to the California Business Roundtable, which fought Prop. 21, an affordable-housing measure there.

Schumer’s relationship with Blackstone is deep and dynamic. Not only does he receive money from them, he is so close with the company that its marketing materials even cite Schumer praising them. Blackstone Schumer excerpt Excerpt from March 2021 Blackstone marketing materials citing Schumer's support.

Despite reporting from several outlets suggesting otherwise, Blackstone denies facilitating any evictions.

“Blackstone could not be prouder of its efforts to invest in and maintain high-quality housing across the U.S. We have also been a leader in supporting our tenants during the Covid pandemic. We have not evicted a single tenant in our U.S. rental housing portfolio for non-payment since March 2020,” Blackstone said in a statement to TYT after this article was published.

The institutional investor did not comment on its relationship with the senator. Schumer’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s no surprise that Schumer is the company’s senator of choice. Before becoming Blackstone's managing director of government relations in February 2019, overseeing the company's lobbying operations, Alex Katz was a senior advisor to Schumer and previously worked on his 2016 re-election campaign. Katz has also worked for other powerful establishment Democrats like Michael Bloomberg and Rahm Emanuel.

Evictions by institutional landlords are a national problem, but, ironically, it disproportionately affects Schumer's own constituents. New York City housing laws are very pro-tenant, meaning mom-and-pop landlords generally avoid the costly eviction process. Institutional investor landlords, however, can easily take on that cost.

Andy Hirschfeld is a freelance reporter. You can find him on Twitter @andyreports

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