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Thu, Jul

Jeff Bezos Donates $120 Million to Fight Homelessness, Then Invests $500 Million to Make It Worse

VOICES

HOMELESSNESS - Among the three richest people on the planet, mega-billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos received some praise last week for announcing approximately $120 million in donations to a number of groups fighting the scourge of homelessness in the United States.

"It's a privilege to support these orgs in their inspiring mission to help families regain stability," Bezos wrote in an Instagram post touting the multiple grants to 38 individual nonprofits in 22 states.

But hold your applause.

Just days after word of the charitable gifts—a minuscule drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $170 billion fortune he possesses—a Bezos-controlled company called Arrived dropped $500 million of new investment in single-family homes with a venture fund that critics warn will make the nation's housing crisis even worse.

According to GV Wire :

Since its inception in 2021, Arrived has attracted nearly a half a million customers, operating as a fractional real estate investing platform. The company’s model is similar to buying a slice of the American pie, allowing investors to purchase shares of single-family rentals for as little as $100.

The fund itself—called the Single Family Residential Fund—allows investors to purchase portions of various homes and later trade, hold, or redeem their "chips" on a rolling basis like players at a casino.

While many Americans, especially younger people and working-class families, have been steadily priced out of homeownership by soaring costs and, more recently, higher interest rates, Arrived preys on that reality by selling the idea that owning a piece of a home as an investment is an "American Dream" akin to owning the home one lives in.

Speculative investors, however, are likely not among those struggling to make ends meet but this kind of investment behavior, warn critics, is certain to drive home prices even higher.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.)—who has co-authored legislation to halt the rent-gouging and inflated home prices that result from such investment schemes—ripped Bezos' latest move.

"The last thing Americans need is a Bezos-backed investment company further consolidating single-family homes and putting homeownership out of reach for more and more people," Khanna tweeted on Friday. "Housing should be a right, not a speculative commodity."

As the author writing under the name Homeless Romantic on Medium noted last week, a primary concern "raised by critics is the monopolization of housing" that Arrived is pushing.

"By acquiring a large number of single-family homes," reads the post, "Bezos and other investors could consolidate control over the housing supply, giving them significant influence over rental prices and market dynamics. This could make it more difficult for ordinary individuals and families to find affordable housing, particularly in high-demand areas."

It wasn't lost on many that there was a disconnect between his relatively paltry gift to organizations valiantly standing on the frontlines to fight homelessness with the one hand, while simultaneously using his massive fortune to exacerbate the crisis with a for-profit venture on the other.

What else could he do? People had ideas.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it would cost a mere $20 billion annually to end homelessness in the United States.

In response to the latest revelations about his charitable giving, a few people said a person worth nearly $200 billion like Bezos "could literally end homelessness by himself if he wanted to."

 

(Jon Queally is a managing editor of CommonDreams.org where this story was first published.)