Protestors wielding banners such as “Blackstone = Vulture funds” gathered outside the firm’s headquarters in New York and also in Madrid earlier this week claiming the firm was harassing tenants of rental properties.
Placards and banners also stated, “Stop Blackstone # Blackstoneevicts” and “PAH Stop evictions”, while leaflets were also handed out on sidewalks. According to a report on Democracynow.org, protests were also staged in San Francisco and Barcelona.
Pablo La Parra of the Marea Granate Nueva York group, which is a branch of a movement organized by migrants from Spain, said: “The problem right now is that many banks that were rescued with public funds are selling their mortgages to private vulture funds such as Blackstone. Many people are facing eviction because Blackstone’s strategy is to raise the prices for the tenants so people are no longer able to pay the rent. So they leave the apartment, and then Blackstone can renegotiate the prices. So they are earning money with people’s suffering.”
Blackstone, which manages around $136 billion of real estate assets globally, is a large owner of private family rental property. In Spain, the firm agreed to invest around €3.6 billion for the ‘Hercules’ portfolio of residential loans and real estate properties with a book value of €6.4 billion from the bailed out Catalunya Banc last July.
However, in a statement yesterday, the firm rejected protestors’ arguments.
Peter Rose, director of public affairs, said the groups were attacking the company for foreclosing on mortgages that it did not even own. Indeed, the company had yet to close on the Catalunya Caixa mortgage transaction, stated Rose.
“We do own some residential rental units in Spain. Of the 5,000 units that we own, we’ve asked only 11 tenants (less than 0.25 percent) to leave and that was only after extensive negotiation. We have put in place extensive protections and processes to protect tenants.”
Rose added: “We are spending capital on the properties and hiring people in Spain with a focus on improving the experience of our tenants through improving the properties and services. We are not increasing rents to force people out of their homes. This is another totally false allegation.”