The Rapacious Investment Schemes of the Rich

Let’s demand a law that protects us from the rapacious investment schemes of the rich, and limits their investments in housing. The rich can go on speculating in the racehorse market, the art market, the market for big diamonds and fancy boats, but not our housing, which is a human necessity.

 

by Carol Denney

 

It’s a hot, hot housing market. The same Wall Street that sent the world into global financial collapse, and then managed to avoid getting its style cramped by burdensome reforms, is now raking its fingers through the empty properties left behind.

Small buyers can’t compete with large investment firms with capital ready to buy — not just the house you wanted — but the whole block.

The wealthy buyer, of course, is not affected much. The Larry Ellisons of the world may huff and puff about having to outbid The Blackstone Group, but there’s always another island somewhere they can acquire if Lanai is no longer available. [Editor’s note: Larry Ellison, chief executive of the giant technology company, Oracle, bought Lanai, an inhabited island in Hawaii, for $300 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.]

Keep this backdrop firmly in mind if you hear anyone nearby whining about not getting “market rate” from a rental property. There is no honest market when most of us are priced out of having a simple roof over our heads by Wall Street investment firms with no stake in the neighborhoods, the local schools, the parks, or the community.

Berkeley’s empty storefronts are eloquent testimony to the indifference of corporate landlords who don’t mind leaving large holes in shopping areas as long as politicians allow them to write the property’s inflated rental costs off their taxes while the Berkeley City Council dithers about actually instituting a vacancy fee to someday reverse the emptiness incentive.

If housing stopped being the new gold for a while, it’s back with a vengeance today, taking huge swaths of the empty properties that once housed thriving communities of now-bankrupt people courted by banks into signing up for shaky loans dependent upon stable jobs and communities Wall Street couldn’t care less about.

Market forces? Let’s demand some. Let’s demand a law that protects us from the rapacious investment schemes of the rich, and limits investments in housing to (let’s be generous) five actual houses, condominium units, or places to live. The rich can go on speculating in the racehorse market, the art market, the market for big diamonds and fancy boats, but not our housing, which is a human necessity.

“Bread Line.” Wood engraving by Clare Leighton. Courtesy of M. Lee Stone Fine Prints, San Jose

 

Trust that if the rich were no longer allowed to disrupt the housing markets of real people with real children who need to keep their shoes out of the rain, they’d still find some crazy way to compete with each other for the silly things that people like Larry Ellison, the sixth richest guy on earth, seem to need to feel good about themselves.

Housing is too important to be the prize in a card game played by idiots.

A Life Consecrated to Compassion and Justice

On the bleak streets of the Tenderloin, a sister took a stand against inhumanity. Her solidarity was inspired by the beatitudes and consecrated to the poor.

The Invisible Natural Cathedral of People’s Park

Builders, please go away. Allow the beauty of an Invisible Natural Cathedral to remain, a living shrine of open space that gives refuge to all people.

Street Spirit Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin

This atrocity was happening in a very wealthy city. It was happening right under our noses. It was very visible. And there was not the united voice of the faith community speaking out. That was the spark of Religious Witness. From that moment, I knew what I had to do.

Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin, Part Two

“What’s forming in my mind is Jesus in the temple when he became angry at the unjust and very exclusive systems of society. That is the very reason that there are the poor and the marginalized. It is not enough just to provide food, clothing and housing.”

‘Such Is the Magic and Spirit of People’s Park’

The mayor has no understanding of the awful defeat the loss of People’s Park would be. No comprehension of the cost in lives and the sacrifices people have made for the Park’s ideals. So many still find it a refuge in a country needing a political and spiritual overhaul.

I Remember Who I Am

“And Now Where?” Lithograph by Rockwell Kent

By and by, I calm down. I meditate. I pray. It is a beautiful day. The sun is setting. I weave my way toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me. I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.