blackstone toronto

People are worried as notorious U.S. equity firm Blackstone opens Toronto office

Blackstone Inc. — a prominent New York-based private equity firm once accused by the U.N. (in 2019) of helping to fuel the global housing crisis — has announced that it will be opening a new office in Toronto to expand its Canadian real estate footprint.

This is proving to be of some concern to those familiar with the investment company's history of making rich people even richer through various means, including indirectly funding the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

"Blackstone today announced that it is establishing a Blackstone Real Estate office in Toronto and the appointment of Janice Lin as head of its Real Estate business in Canada," reads a release issued by the company on Monday, referencing the senior housing operator Revera's former Chief Investment Officer.

"Blackstone has long had a significant presence in Canada across its businesses, including CAD $14 billion of real estate assets totaling approximately 450 properties – consisting primarily of logistics. Blackstone's portfolio companies across the firm employ more than 3,550 people in Canada."

While Blackstone portfolio companies do exist in our home and native land — including the contentious rental company Tricon — this will be Blackstone's first official real estate office in Canada.

"We are long-term believers in the strength of the Canadian economy, and we look forward to leveraging her expertise and on-the-ground views to help us expand our presence in the Canadian real estate market," said Nadeem Meghji, Blackstone's Head of Real Estate Americas, in the release.

According to The Globe and Mail, Blackstone already owns about 450 properties in Canada — most of them warehouses — valued at about $14 billion in total. The bulk of its portfolio is focused on logistics, such as warehouses.

"More recently, Blackstone expanded its Canadian commercial and residential holdings," reports The Globe's Andrew Willis.

"The fund asset manager bought Vancouver's Bentall Center in 2019 for $1-billion. In 2021, it acquired three office buildings in downtown Toronto, a tech-focused property known as the Atlantic complex, for $240-million."

As fabulous as all of this sounds (and it does,) critics are worried about what an investment of this magnitude from Blackstone might mean for affordability in Toronto.

Not only is Blackstone is one of the world's largest property investors with some $880 billion USD under its management, it is one of the largest investors in leveraged buyouts in modern history.

Some are concerned about the company swooping in to buy out defaulted or struggling Canadian properties en masse for investment purposes, taking even more housing units off the market for people who actually want and need to live in the homes they buy. 

"Blackstone earned a reputation for making massive profits during the 2008 recession by scooping up foreclosed real estate at bargain prices. It is one of the biggest corporate landlords in the US," tweeted one concerned local upon hearing of the new Toronto office.

"The vultures are here in anticipation of a housing market bloodbath," wrote another ominously. 

There are so, so, so many nuances and tricky loopholes in this situation; some would argue that Blackstone is far from the first company or organization to make bank on real estate equity.

I'm just a clueless millennial who, at this rate, will never ever afford a home in this city. All I can deduce for sure is that a lot of smart people seem uneasy about this new outpost of the U.S. investment management giant.

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