International home owners and Michigan’s dirty pipes 

in February 22nd, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of February 22, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

This is our last Monday sharing a local only edition of Below the Fold! If you’ve been with us since the beginning of the month, you know we wanted to take this time to dig into hidden local stories and share them with our U.S. audience. We believe local coverage shows us how connected we really are as a nation, and are curious to hear what you thought of our “loving local news” content. If you can spare less than two minutes today, let us know what you thought here. Otherwise, jump right in to our final Monday edition… for now? Tell us more in the survey! 


FLORIDA

The secret owners behind America’s rental homes

Fri Feb 19

A Hermes handbag with the side of… a Florida apartment? A recent investigation uncovered how a French fashion label owns more than 1,000 homes in one Tampa Bay neighborhood. In fact, foreign investors in general are attracted to Florida properties, citing lenient tax laws, cheaper properties, and sunny weather.

Does it matter if your building is locally or internationally owned? It might depend on who you ask. Proponents say it helps provide more affordable housing for the community, especially for single-family home rentals. But some residents question the commitment their offshore landlords have to their community.

  • More rentals would instead hurt affordability (since rent always goes up) and price out the working-class.
  • Tenants of a large property management company might be offered less leniency or flexibility for situations like COVID-19 because large property management companies can be machine-like.
  • The aforementioned effects are compounded due to the fact that internationally-owned properties are clustered in one area.

Meanwhile across America, institutional investors own more than 200,000 single-family homes. A 2018 study showed that many of these private equity firms and hedge funds began purchasing the homes after the 2008 recession when homes were foreclosed, with private equity firm Blackstone owning over 80,000 homes alone. 

Want to learn more? 

  • For more on what’s happening in Tampa, read the full coverage in Tampa Bay Times.
  • For more on the history of foreign purchases of American homes, turn to CNBC.

MICHIGAN

The health risk of opening schools go beyond COVID-19

Sun Feb 21

Michigan’s battle with safe drinking water is taking new forms — this time, with water pipes in schools. Due to learn-from-home orders, school plumbing systems have been left stagnant, providing ample time for bacteria to form and lead to appear.

While schools have been advised to flush the plumbing system weekly, those flushes don’t guarantee water safety. On top of that, the state doesn’t require schools to regularly test their water. A routine flushing of the plumbing system is typically done after summer breaks. Even schools that followed these rules, such as one Ann Arbor district that flushed twice a week throughout the summer, found potentially dangerous levels of bacteria in water pipes by October.

And it’s not just happening in Michigan. Schools in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York have reported high levels of a bacteria known to cause a potentially deadly type of pneumonia. Meanwhile Texas (before unexpected weather altered plans) began a program testing drinking water in thousands of elementary schools following a new policy from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA’s December update now requires water utilities to test water at elementary schools and child care facilities. 

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