Horizontal holdings: untangling the networks of corporate landlords


Since the capitalist and colonial enclosure of land-qua-property, the property parcel has served as the geographic foundation of land ownership. Bounded, self-contained and mutually exclusive with all surrounding parcels, this geography is taken for granted in our contemporary understandings of property. But as the ownership of land, property and housing has become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands in recent years, it perhaps makes more sense to think of property not as isolated and individual, but as fundamentally networked and relational. Properties that are quite distant from one another are often connected through tangled webs of corporate property ownership, which are meant to deliberately obscure the true ownership – and concentration – of such property from public view. This paper demonstrates the importance of untangling these corporate networks, using a case study of three large corporate landlords operating in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia: Invitation Homes, Pretium Partners and Amherst Holdings. The paper shows how the true extent of these corporate landlords’ holdings are hidden by these networks, and how researchers can untangle them in order to produce a more complete understanding of concentrated housing ownership. Through this method, we can uncover that these three firms control over 19,000 single family homes across the five core counties of Metro Atlanta, using an extensive network of more than 190 corporate aliases registered to 74 different addresses across ten states and one territory to hide their holdings behind a veil of secrecy and insulate themselves from liability.

Annals of the American Association of Geographers, forthcoming
Taylor Shelton
Assistant Professor of Geography