Some people collect stamps. Others collect coins. A special few even collect back scratchers and traffic cones. For hobbyists like these, there’s charm and salve in discovering and curating a wide-ranging set of rarities and oddities. The pastime is one of emotional – rather than monetary – satiation.
Perhaps this distinction is what makes Don Mullen’s collection so revolting. Mullen is the CEO and founder of private equity firm Pretium Partners, and through a network of subsidiaries, Mullen and his firm have amassed over 55,000 single family homes across the country.
Among the many questions this might raise in inquiring minds, one might be, “What do you get for a man who has everything?” Evidently, for Mullen, the answer is: more.
Mullen’s latest acquisition, a $24.8 million waterfront mansion for personal use in Miami, is a perfect case-in-point of the gratuitousness and harm that home-hoarding can cause. At 10,000 square meters, it is five times larger than the average American home. It features seven bedrooms, 8.5 bathrooms, and 100 yards of waterfront views.
On its face, this purchase ought to offend our moral sensibilities. Nobody needs that much space all to themselves. Nevertheless, the true depravity lies not merely in the excessive square footage, but in the broader socio-economic context.
Across Florida, hundreds of families are at risk of losing the one home they have. Since the pandemic started, Pretium Partners’ rental companies, Front Yard Residential and Progress Residential, have filed at least 439 evictions in the Sunshine State. More broadly, the companies have filed at least 1,730 eviction actions since the CDC eviction moratorium took effect last September.
Meanwhile, Mullen’s Miami arrival comes amidst an influx of migration into Florida, which has exacerbated existing housing shortages and driven up home and rent prices that were already high enough to stretch working families to the limits of their budgets. In fact, in the vast majority of zip codes in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, rental prices saw double-digit increases since last summer. Prices in some zip codes jumped as much as 95%, displacing long-time residents.
According to July data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, almost 57% of households in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Palm Beach metro area reported that they would, due to eviction, likely have to leave their home within the next two months. The same survey found that an alarming 76% black residents face the specter of eviction within the next two months.
Pretium Partners’ eviction filings follow a similar trend nationally. Throughout the pandemic, their residential companies have filed to evict renters in majority-Black counties at much higher rates than renters in majority-white counties.
It’s not just an unfortunate irony that the true meaning of “mi casa es su casa” is lost on Mullen. Miami is among the nation’s predominant sites of Latin American culture and hospitality. Consequently, Mullen’s multimillion dollar Magic City land grab is an act of social desecration.
Much of this context gets lost against the unfathomable scale of Pretium’s hoard of homes. Yet however abstract the economics of the matter can be, stable housing, unlike access to antique postage stamps, can mean the difference between life and death. Accordingly, government regulators and investors would do well to steer Mullen toward more healthy and socially productive collecting habits.