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Tenants’ Rights Leaders Protest Foundation’s Billion-Dollar Real Estate Deal With Blackstone – KPBS

Tenant rights advocates protest the sale of Conrad Prebys' apartment complexe...

Photo by Cristina Kim

Above: Tenant rights advocates protest the sale of Conrad Prebys’ apartment complexes to Blackstone in National City, CA, July 27, 2021.

Local leaders and tenants rights advocates gathered in National City on Tuesday to demand that Conrad Prebys Foundation stop the sale of it’s nearly 6,000 apartment units to the private equity firm Blackstone.

Anne Marine McKellob has called Golden Tree Apartments on Ave A her home for the past three years. It’s one of the 66 buildings the foundation is selling to Blackstone for over $1 billion. McKellob worries about what will happen when Blackstone takes over.

“I am pretty much afraid that we got to move out,” said McKellob. “They aren’t in favor of us, they are in favor of themselves and growing their money higher.”

RELATED: Conrad Prebys Estate Putting Thousands Of Low-Cost Apartments Up For Sale

The New York City-based Blackstone has been buying up low-income and moderate-income housing complexes across the country. Its deal with the Conrad Prebys Foundation was first announced in May. The foundation will use proceeds from the sale to fund its many philanthropic efforts in San Diego, which include grants to KPBS.

Housing advocates opposed the deal from the beginning, saying it will result in the loss of needed affordable housing in the region. Blackstone has repeatedly said they plan to keep units affordable and make needed upgrades.

“We expect that a resident making 80% or less of [San Diego County’s median income] will continue to find the majority of units affordable,” wrote Kathleen McCarthy, Global Co-head of Blackstone Real Estate, in an email. “We plan to make substantial capital investments — exceeding $100 million — to address unaddressed resident requests.”

RELATED: Gloria Introduces Housing Initiatives Designed To Create More Affordable Homes

McCarthy also wrote that the repairs, which entail enhancing security, amenities and other services, will generate more than 500 local jobs.

For a family of four in San Diego County, 80% of the area median income is $97,000. The McKellobs support two children on an annual income of $29,000 after taxes, McKellob said.

She said her family pays $1,400 a month for a one-bedroom apartment that she describes as roach infested. She doubts she will benefit from Blackstone’s promised renovations and instead be given money to move out.

“Maybe they try to give up something because you know that’s what they do to make a more bougie apartment,” McKellob said. “And then maybe the amount that they give isn’t even enough for where we want to go.”

Reported by Christina Kim , Video by Mike Damron

McKellob wants to stay close to National City and worries that if she’s pushed out she and her husband will face longer and more expensive commutes.

National City Vice Mayor Jose Rodriguez also says he’s not confident that Blackstone will keep any promises it’s making.

“They aren’t legally bound to any of this stuff,” said Rodriguez. “There’s no law that says this is going to happen so a company can go out and say ‘oh we are going to do this’, but we’ve had many companies in the past say they are going to do X,Y and Z and end up not doing any of it.”

RELATED: Median San Diego Home Price Hits New Record: $750,000

Rodriguez acknowledges that there’s no legal way to stop the sale, but he thinks public actions are important because they show Blackstone that a strong tenants rights culture is growing in the San Diego region.

“This new prospective buyer knows what they are dealing with and they are dealing with tenants that are organized, with elected officials that want to make sure that we represent everybody and everybody’s interest,” Rodriguez said. “So they know this is going to be a fight once the sale goes through.”

Blackstone expects the transaction to close later this year.


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Photo of Cristina Kim

Cristina Kim
Racial Justice and Social Equity Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover racial justice and social equity issues – an expansive beat that includes housing, health, criminal justice, and education. I am interested in unpacking how systems reproduce inequalities and highlighting the ways communities of color are pushing for greater equity.

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