Presentation | 2023

'Forever Renters' – Owning Housing Shares, Not Homes

With homeownership out of reach for many, the single-family rental housing market has been growing in the U.S. Private equity-backed companies have been buying up homes for the purpose of renting them. This has created the opportunity for digital property technologies –online marketplaces for real estate investment known as “proptech” – to seek investment in the single-family rental market by targeting young, first-time investors to become digital landlords.

On May 30, 2023, IMFG graduate fellow Kaela Sanborn-Hum discussed corporate investment in single-family housing after the 2008 financial crisis, with a focus on Roofstock, an Oakland-based proptech startup. She described Roofstock’s strategies to introduce retail investors to the single-family rental market through proprietary technologies and concluded with a discussion of the implications for a growing class of young, remote investor-landlords who mirror the practices of their corporate predecessors.


Kaela Sanborn-Hum is the recipient of the 2022–23 Graduate Fellowship in Municipal Finance and Governance. She is a second year Geography master's student. Her research interests include digital property technologies and the role of private real estate actors shaping the political and financial priorities of municipalities. Kaela's research focuses on start-up digital platforms facilitating remote investment in regional rental housing markets in the US and the attending policy challenges. Previously, she was a labor organizer in Oakland, California.

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