When the neighborhood is owned by billion-dollar companies
Many of the single-family homes in the Piedmont Park neighborhood of Apopka, Florida, used to be owned by families — the Vargases and the Townes, the Pierces and the Riddles. Now, they’re owned by Blackstone, American Homes 4 Rent and Colony Starwood Homes, companies associated with big real estate investment firms.
And the occupants are tenants, not owners.
In the decade since the housing boom deflated into a bust, financial firms recognized an investment opportunity in hard-hit areas like this Orlando suburb. Single-family homes lost to foreclosure could be bought cheaply and transformed into rent-generating income streams.
The corporate purchases have spread through Piedmont Park and surrounding neighborhoods, where the percentage of renters rose from a bit over 10 percent to more than 35 percent within a decade. Piedmont Park homeowners complain that the result is more transient neighbors, less engagement at homeowners’ meetings and difficulties reaching absentee corporate landlords.
Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer regards the surge of renters in houses throughout central Florida as an unfortunate consequence of the damage this region absorbed from the Great Recession and housing bust.
“Having an owner-occupied house is better for a neighborhood and better for a community than a house occupied by renters,” Kilsheimer said. “They are invested in their children’s school. They’re invested the quality of life in their community.”
Claudette Guerrier, one of the original homeowners in Piedmont Park from its development in 1988, feels disheartened by the transformation. She said her four-bedroom, two-story house has been broken into twice recently
“It was better in the beginning; now it’s not so good,” Guerrier said.