toronto housing market

Toronto rental company CEO becomes internet villain over comments on U.S. TV show

The economically hard-done-by millennial generation, which here in Toronto has been all but completely priced out of the housing market, has no aspriations to buy real estate.

Or so says Gary Berman, a Tricon executive is in his late 40s who makes approximately $5 million per year (not including bonuses) as President and CEO of Toronto's most prominent rental corporation.

Millennials, Berman explained in a recently-televised interview on CBS, would rather rent a house owned by someone else (or better yet, by a massive corporation like his!) for the rest of their lives, spending any extra cash they have on "lifestyle" purchases.

He didn't define what lifestyle means in this context, but I'm guessing it includes things along the line of concert tickets, fancy sneakers, avocado toast... the usual things uneducated boomers chide us for buying when the topic of affordable housing comes up.

Berman isn't a boomer, and he's far from uneducated with degrees from both Harvard and McGill, but he has inspired the type of outrage usually prompted by suburban sixty-somethings telling their adult children to simply "tighten their belts" and "spend less money" in order to afford property.

"I think if you asked a lot of millennials, and that tends to be our primary resident, they would probably tell you, they don't necessarily desire to own a home or to own a car," said Berman on the flagship TV news program 60 Minutes last Sunday.

"They've grown up in the sharing economy. And for what's important to them is lifestyle, right? And so if they can move into this, what we call, a turnkey or a hotel ready home and have a low-maintenance lifestyle, that's very compelling for them. Very compelling."

But, as it would turn out, many millennials don't seem eager to throw the majority of their earnings in Tricon's direction to end up with zero equity.

People all over the U.S. and Canada are furious over Berman's comments and the suggestion that home ownership isn't something millennials desire.

They're especially mad that the comments came from the president of a company which owns and rents out roughly 30,000 single family homes across the United States alone.

And are eagerly firing back at boomers who chide the entire millennial generation for spending their money on luxury items instead of mortgage downpayments.

Tricon Residential, based in Toronto, is a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company. It holds about $13.7 billion in assets, including a whole host of "stabilized multi-family rental apartments" in Canada's largest city.

The iconic CBS journalist Lesley Stahl spoke to Berman as part of a larger piece about the evolution of home ownership and fast-rising rent prices in America, revealing that investors are buying up nearly 30 per cent of all available homes in cities like Jacksonville, Charlotte and Atlanta.

"Would-be home buyers may be forced to rent the American dream, rather than buy it," reads the title of the piece in its online form, picking up a money quote from Berman himself:

"So what's happened to the American dream? When we used to say that it meant owning a house. What's the American dream now?" asked Stahl in the television broadcast."

"Well, if we think the American dream is embodied in a suburban home with a yard and and a white picket fence, then I think we're making the American dream much more accessible," said the CEO, whose company saw revenues increase by 67 per cent last year (yes, I'm serious.)

"Rent your American dream," Stahl replied, to which Berman confirmed "You can rent the American dream."

Some might argue that government policies preventing wealthy investors from buying up all the housing stock might actually make the dream of home ownership affordable for younger generations.

Tricon, meanwhile, continues to expand.

"I mean, when you think about it, we have an incredible amount of demand for what we do... in any given week, we might have two or 300 homes available," Berman told Stahl on 60 Minutes

"And we get about 10,000 leasing inquiries a week."

Tricon Residential CEO Gary Berman has responded to blogTO's story since publication, sharing the following statement:

"We know that having a place to call home is important to everyone and that homeownership also remains an ambition of many. However, we also know that some rent for a variety of reasons, one of which is the cost of a down payment. For those individuals and families, Tricon Residential provides the option of renting high-quality, safe, comfortable homes.

All our single-family homes are located in the U.S., with a primary focus on the Sun Belt. When Tricon buys a house, it enables those without the means to buy a home, the ability to rent the house instead. The overwhelming demand for our rental homes illustrates the important role we play in improving accessibility to housing alternatives.

As mentioned during the interview, we are also adding to the much-needed supply of homes in the U.S. through our build-to-rent program, we keep rent renewal increases well below industry averages, and if homeownership is a resident's ultimate goal, we have a series of programs to help support them in achieving that goal. I hope this helps to clarify the statements made to 60 Minutes."

Lead photo by

CBS News

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