With threats of homelessness and bankruptcy in the air as the eviction moratoriums subside, both renters and small landlords are getting pinched by predatory tech capitalism as the gig-economy hits the real estate market.
In 2014, former Blackstone and Goldman Sachs investment banker Ryan Williams got together with his “college buddy,” Joshua Kushner – Jared’s brother – to form a real estate investment platform they called Cadre. Cadre sought to disrupt the real estate industry in the wake of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis by tinderizing property deals through a tech platform that brought investors and sellers together. According to Williams, whose other investors include George Soros and Peter Theil, Cadre’s mission is “to level the playing field in an industry that is often tilted toward the biggest players” by taking an “offline” industry online and making it “transparent.”
A pre-Covid initiative to capitalize on its platform came in the form of the so-called “opportunity zones,” that Jared Kushner directly lobbied for inclusion in Trump’s 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, billed as a funding mechanism to help poor and distressed communities, which turned into a multi-billion-dollar land heist by the wealthiest Americans, like the Kushner family. The pandemic lockdown protocols forced Cadre to downsize, laying off 25 percent of its workforce in March.
But now, the company is restarting its predatory engines as the home eviction wave forming on the horizon signals potential windfalls for companies like Cadre, that are in a position to profit. It is doing so by launching a pop-up banking operation called “Cadre Cash,” which will try to lure deposits from “investors” by offering a three percent annualized “reward” to finance a new round of land-grabs as millions of Americans teeter on the edge of homelessness and landlords look to unload un-rentable properties.
Another company, Civvl, is tackling a different side of the burgeoning housing crisis in America with its on-demand service model for eviction crews. Just like Uber, the Civvl app lets “frustrated property owners and banks secure foreclosed residential properties” by connecting haulers and the rentier class.
Civvl’s parent company, OnQall, specializes in mobile app platforms that monetize side-hustles like moving, cleaning and lawn care services. The eviction crew app has, predictably, drawn a storm of criticism since Motherboard‘s article on Civvl this past Monday.
“It’s fucked up that there will be struggling working-class people who will be drawn to gigs like furniture-hauling or process-serving,” exclaimed housing activist Helena Duncan, who also pointed out the clear dystopian contours evident in a scenario where working class people are paid to wage economic warfare on fellow working class people. Civvl puts up a disingenuous defense against the earned invectives, comparing itself to Monster.com. “They’re not evicting anyone,” a Civvl spokesperson told Motherboard, “they’re just the help.”
Both Cadre and Civvl are poised to make a killing as eviction moratoriums abate across the country and millions find themselves on one side or another of evictions – tenants forced onto the streets by small landlords who will have little choice but to sell in a depressed market. Only the CDC’s national eviction moratorium, issued three weeks ago, stands in the way of the avalanche of displacement and dispossession at our doorstep. But, even the risks of fines and jail time doesn’t seem to be discouraging companies like OnQall or landlords, in general.