The European Investigative Journalism Conference

Dataharvest Pop-Up: Meet the people behind “Cities for Rent”

Are rents constantly rising in your city? Has it been increasingly difficult to find adequate and affordable place? Has home ownership become only wishful thinking?

High demand for flats across European cities has made housing a very attractive investment. While many people can’t find an affordable flat to live in, reports of a huge increase in investment flows into housing across Europe go hand in hand with stories of abusive practices by ‘corporate landlords’, companies that buy and rent out housing for profit.

Where is all that money coming from? Who are the companies and investors buying so much housing across Europe? How does this phenomenon affect people’s lives and homes in European cities?

During a period of more than seven months, a team of over 25 investigative and data journalists and visualisations experts from 16 European countries, have been working on the cross-border collaborative project Cities for Rent: Investigating Corporate Landlords Across Europe. The project was coordinated by the Arena for Journalism in Europe.

Join us for a pop-up session  with Adriana Homolova, Hendrik Lehmann and Jose Miguel Calatayud on May 5 (10:00 AM CET).

Register here

In 2013, Madrid authorities sold more than 4,800 homes, originally intended as affordable housing, to companies controlled by American investment funds. One of the new landlords, American giant Blackstone, soon increased the rents – in some cases by doubling them over a period of three years. Many tenants ended up being evicted.

In Lisbon, in 2017, two companies bought a building for 2.7 million euros and shortly after put it up for sale for 7 million as an “unoccupied” building, when in reality there were 12 families living there.

In ParisLondonCopenhagen and Berlin, tenants in homes owned by Swedish company Akelius have been complaining for years of abusive practices by their ‘corporate landlord’. In 2020, even the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing said that Akelius was abusing its tenants’ human rights.

Similar stories tend to repeat across Europe. Total investment into residential real estate in Europe has increased more than 700% between 2009 and 2020, from 7.9 to 66.9 billion euros, according to data by Real Capital Analytics. Corporate landlords’ are increasing their presence in different European cities, while the authorities rarely know how many homes those kinds of companies have acquired. (continued under the video)

Cross-border collaborative project Cities for Rent: Investigating Corporate Landlords Across Europe is envisaged as the first step towards more cross-border collaborative research into the crisis of housing affordability and how it affects people’s lives. Join us to learn how the journalists involved went ahead and started building the databases of the corporate landlords in different European countries; who these big players are, and how they’re impacting our lives.

Read the stories

The investigation received support through IJ4EU fund for cross-border investigative journalism