A viral tweet from right-wing activist Mercedes Schlapp claims that Bill Gates is buying “the majority of American farmland” and that investment firm BlackRock is buying “the majority of single-family homes”.
Gates does buy farmland, but his purchases fall far short of the majority of US farmland. There are 895 million acres of farmland in the United States according to a 2022 report from the United States Department of Agriculture. According to reports of Gates’ farmland purchase last year, he owns more than 269,000 acres. When asked during a Reddit Ask Me Anything event why he was buying up so much farmland, Gates replied, “My investment group chose to do this. It is not related to the climate. The agricultural sector is important. With more productive seeds, we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate challenges it already faces. It’s unclear how cheap biofuels can be, but if they’re cheap, they can solve aviation and truck emissions.
Gates farmland represents 0.03% of US farmland. This is a huge amount for a single landowner, and enough to make Gates the largest private farmland owner in the country. But that’s far from the majority of US farmland, as Schlapp suggests.
Schlapp’s claim about BlackRock buying single-family homes has a similar kernel of truth that Schlapp exaggerated: the investment firm is indeed buying homes, but on a scale far from the scale suggested by Schlapp . The claim has its roots in a 2021 the wall street journal article about how investors bought single-family homes as sound investments. The article became a talking point among populists who saw the situation as emblematic of corporate American self-interest. But even then, as BlackRock and other investors bought homes at a near-record pace, their purchases were only a fraction of the housing market.
It’s hard to put a number on how many single-family homes BlackRock invests in — one real estate company it invests in, Invitation Homes, has 80,000 single-family rentals, but that tells us nothing about BlackRock properties, or any of the companies in which he invests, may have bought to resell. BlackRock’s $60 billion in real estate assets are too vast to be telling on the single-family home front, on the other hand. But even operating without BlackRock-specific data, it’s clear that Schlapp’s claim that the company buys the majority of family homes is far from accurate. John Burns Real Estate Consulting estimated that in 2020 investor purchases accounted for 20% of home sales. And that number not only includes BlackRock but everything investment firms and any individual who is not purchasing the home as their primary residence. Holiday homes, second homes, rental properties, houses that are planned to be returned, all these purchases are also included in this statistic.
Schlapp’s claims about Bill Gates and BlackRock are based on things that actually happen, but they’re wildly inaccurate. Bill Gates doesn’t own anything close to the majority of US farmland, and based on available data on private investors in the housing market, it’s clear that BlackRock isn’t buying the majority of single-family homes coming onto the market. market in America either.
The American Conservative Union, of which Schlapp is a senior member, did not respond to a request for comment.
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