Should state tax speculators fin?

The TV commercials and online ads are quickly becoming ubiquitous: “We’ll buy your house as is,” they trumpet. “You don’t have to spend money to fix it.”

This is generally the message from housing speculators, often institutional investors, including real estate funds, who are less interested in acquiring or maintaining housing than in cashing in on rising land prices. It’s the land, not the houses, that interests her the most.

A Northern California civic group called United Neighbors says, “Neighborhood capital, particularly institutional and private equity, is entering the single-family home market in unprecedented amounts.”

That’s a big reason why, according to the group, “California housing costs have increased so much that housing costs have completely decoupled from their historical wage-based income base.”

That, they say, is the root cause of the affordability crisis. This is fueled by the fact that institutional investors, including pension funds such as CalSTERS (the California Teachers’ Pension Scheme) and CalPERS (the California Public Employees’ Pension Scheme), are leaving many purchases empty while awaiting property appreciation. This frees them from dealing with renters and evictions if they decide to sell or demolish existing homes and convert them into multi-family homes.

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