La Vergne, TENN. — The homes on Tammy Sue Lane aren’t fancy. Modest in size and clad in vinyl siding, the houses were priced below $200,000 when most were built about 15 years ago, and for many families in suburban Nashville, they represented a first chance at homeownership.
A corrections officer bought one, and so did a housekeeper and an electrician.
Then some of the world’s wealthiest people bought in.
Over the past six years, 19 of the 32 homes on Tammy Sue Lane have been purchased by a billion-dollar investment venture, part of an unprecedented flow of global finance into the American suburbs. Less than 10 years old, the company has amassed one of the nation’s largest portfolios of single-family houses, renting them to families who cannot afford to buy the “entry level” homes.
The venture, Progress Residential, acquires as many as 2,000 houses a month with a computerized property-search algorithm and rapid all-cash offers. Progress executives boast that the company’s efficient management practices have been a boon to their tenants.
But according to previously undisclosed documents and dozens of interviews with renters and former employees, Progress Residential has been ringing up substantial profits for wealthy investors around the world while outbidding middle-class home buyers and subjecting tenants to what they allege are unfair rent hikes, shoddy maintenance and excessive fees.
“There’s just no human decency,” said Victoria Bates, an Amazon warehouse worker who lives on Tammy Sue Lane with her husband and 10-year-old daughter. Bates said the company regularly failed to fulfill ordinary maintenance requests. While the company said it “addressed” within five days most of the 37 work orders she submitted, Bates said most of the time it didn’t fix what was needed: It took several months for the company to repair a leaky water heater, she said.
Meanwhile, Bates said, the firm levies a profusion of fees that “take advantage of regular people working paycheck to paycheck.”
In a statement, Progress Residential defended its operations, including the treatment of tenants, saying that its rents and fees are in line with industry standards and market rates. Pretium officials said they adhered to the federal eviction moratorium.
“All of our entities conduct business according to the highest ethical and legal standards,” the company said.
Behind Progress Residential is Pretium Partners, a New York-based investment firm whose business plan and investors are revealed in the Pandora Papers, a trove of offshore financial records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with The Washington Post.
The plan sought to exploit the 2008 U.S. housing crash, which forced millions of homeowners into foreclosure and left a glut of cheap houses for sale. The …….