Hasan Minhaj has come back with new episodes of his excellent show Patriot Act. He was supposed to return a couple of months ago but the pandemic hit just at that time so they had to revamp the process without an audience and the glitzy stage effects. But it was a very good show nonetheless and this episode dealt with the housing crisis caused by the pandemic. With people losing their jobs and not being able to pay rent, they face evictions. This has led to rent strikes and Minhaj points out something that I said earlier, that the non-payment of rent even for a short time does not really solve the problem for many people and creates a cascade or domino effect all the way up the chain. But he goes much further and deeper into the issue.
He also says that Wall Street investors, after creating the massive financial debacle in 2008 by securitizing mortgages, now seem to be focusing on the rental markets, with renters as easier prey. When homeowners default on their mortgages, it is a hassle to repossess the house and then resell them. There are a lot of hoops the mortgage owners have to overcome. But with renters, it is much easier to evict someone and get a new tenant. He looks at all the techniques that landlords use to evict tenants and that renters have almost no chance of successfully fighting them since the system is Byzantine and most people faced with eviction are often too poor to afford lawyers.
These Wall Street investors see this crisis as a great opportunity to buy rental properties at low prices, securitize the rents, and resell them as investments. It is Credit Default Swaps all over again, just in a new disguise.
Here’s the show.