Financialization of Rents Gets Taxpayer Guarantees

Invitation Homes, the 2012 buy-to-rent creature of private-equity firm Blackstone, and now owner of 48,431 single-family homes, thus the largest landlord of single-family homes in the US, accomplished another feat: it obtained government guarantees for $1 billion in rental-home mortgage backed securities.

The disclosure came in an amended S-11 filing with the SEC on Monday in preparation for Invitation Homes’ IPO. Invitation Homes bought these properties out of foreclosure and turned them into rental properties, concentrated in 12 urban areas. The IPO filing lists $9.7 billion in single-family properties and $7.7 billion in debt.

Some of this debt will be refinanced with the proceeds from the sale of the $1 billion of government-guaranteed rental-home mortgage backed securities.

The government agency that has agreed to guarantee the “timely payment of principal and interest” of these “Guaranteed Certificates,” as they’re called, is Fannie Mae, one of the government-sponsored entities (GSE) that has been bailed out and taken over by the government during the Financial Crisis.

This is the first time ever that a government-sponsored enterprise has guaranteed single-family rental-home mortgage-backed securities, issued by a huge corporate landlord. It’s an essential step forward in financializing rents: taxpayer backing for funding the biggest landlords.

Government guarantees allow the mega-landlord to sell these securities at a lower yield and thus offer landlords like Blackstone’s entity even cheaper financing for future home purchases, and thus lower costs and greater profit potential.

During the next severe economic downturn, Fannie Mae and its sister Freddie Mac would need between $49 billion and $126 billion in taxpayer bailout money, according to the stress test conducted by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The results were released in August last year. So why fret about one more billion?

Blackstone is the trailblazer in financializing rents. It pioneered the post-Financial Crisis buy-to-rent scheme, explicitly encouraged at the time by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Department of the Treasury, as they were trying to bail out the banks by finding willing and able buyers for foreclosed homes – big institutional buyers that could feed at the nearly-free money-trough the Fed had put out there.

And Blackstone was a trailblazer in the next logical step: issuing the first rent-backed structured securities in November 2013. The deal was collateralized by rental income from 3,207 homes. Moody’s, Kroll, and Morningstar – all paid by Blackstone – rated nearly 60% of the securities AAA. The remaining tranches carried lower ratings. The deal flew off the shelf. Now all larger buy-to-rent companies are using rent-backed structured securities for funding.

This too is going to happen with government guarantees on rental-home mortgage-backed securities. It’s a sweet deal for the issuer: low-cost funding, made possible by government guarantees, is always welcome. Other corporate landlords will follow in Blackstone’s footsteps.

Not all of it will be guaranteed by the government: To satisfy “credit risk retention requirements,” Invitation Homes “would purchase and retain the Subordinate Non-Guaranteed Certificates,” amounting to 5%, or $50 million, of the $1 billion in securities. That’s all the cushion the taxpayer has before losses begin to hit home, so to speak.

The GSEs were founded to promote homeownership by subsidizing it with at first implicit, and since the Financial Crisis explicit, government guaranteed mortgages. But this deal represents a big shift: now, in a delicious Wall-Street irony, the government subsidizes the largest landlords and enhances their profits from renting out single-family homes that individual homeowners had lost during the housing collapse and foreclosure crisis.

There is a darker side to corporate ownership of single-family rental homes and the financialization of rents: soaring evictions, according to the Atlanta Fed, which explicitly blames the Fed and Bernanke.

— source wolfstreet.com

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