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'The Hunger Games of housing' | 7,000 Shelby County owner-occupied homes turned into rentals in 2 years

"If this trend continues - within the next two years, most people in Memphis will not be able to purchase a home. They will be forced to rent," said Javier Bailey.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —
Can't find an affordable place to buy or even rent in the Mid-South? You're not alone. 

Since the pandemic began, home prices and rents have drastically risen. And a new analysis from the Shelby County Property Assessors Office found out-of-town investors are scooping up thousands of properties.

"It's the Hunger Games of housing. How did we get to a place like this where you can't provide people with the basics of shelter?" said Roshun Austin, and Affordable Housing Advocate.

Austin began developing the Renaissance at Steel apartments in Frayser at the beginning of the pandemic. Austin said the 150 unit affordable housing complex filled up in 90 days because the demand for affordable rentals was so great. 

"People were waiting for them to be built because they needed somewhere to stay," said Austin.

Austin leads The Works Community Development Corporation. Austin said our area is short about 40,000 quality affordable rental units.

Javier Bailey, CAO of the Shelby County Property Assessor office, said there is another problem. Investors are buying up single family homes in Shelby County at a rapid rate.

"The supply of affordable quality housing in this city is literally being depleted at an enormous pace," said Bailey.

Bailey said a recent analysis of homes sales found in the past two years, 7,000 single family homes in Shelby County have been purchased by out-of-town investors and turned into rentals. 

Many of the homes were purchased by large investment firms in mass quantity, and those groups are raising rents.

RELATED: Some Shelby County homeowners see more than 50% hike in property assessments

RELATED: Local I-Team: Investors Buying Up Properties Means More Renters In Local Neighborhoods

According to the county analysis, in the past two years, Cerberus Capital Management bought more than 1,400 local homes. Another called Pretium Partners picked up just over 1,300. Homes SFR Borrower LLC bought 905, and American Homes 4 Rent bought 450. 

"That's startling to me. That's startling because what that means is local income levels are having to complete with multi-million and billion dollar investment funds," said Bailey.

Bailey said out-of-town investors buying up so many homes has affected not only the price of homes sales, but the price of rental homes and apartments. 

"If this trend continues - within the next two years, most people in Memphis will not be able to purchase a home. They will be forced to rent. And with rents, they are going to pay almost double what they would have paid for the same home in a mortgage," said Bailey. "Those people who have traditionally lived in apartment communities will now be competing against higher income levels for the apartment supply."

Bailey said Property Assessor Melvin Burgess and other Shelby County leaders are looking to find possible solutions to slow the number of investor purchases, in hopes of putting the breaks on the problem. 

However Bailey added, "You can't stop someone from buying a house."  

The question, Bailey said, is what else can be done. 

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