US real estate giant Blackstone says it will not target single-family homes in its Canadian expansion

Blackstone Inc. BX-N said Monday it has no interest in investing in single-family homes in Canada, laying to rest speculation the giant global asset manager would scoop up hundreds of Canadian houses and turn them into rental properties.

After Blackstone announced plans in May to establish a Canadian office in Toronto, rumor abounded that the private equity firm would unleash its firepower, gobble up homes and increase competition for individuals and families looking to buy homes. The typical home price across the country has climbed 50 per cent over the past two years and real estate investors have come under scrutiny for their role in ramping up competition and driving up prices.

But Blackstone’s head of real estate Americas, Nadeem Meghji, said that is not in the cards for the company’s Canadian expansion.

“It’s just not an area that we are focused on in Canada,” he said in a joint interview with Janice Lin, the new head of Blackstone Canada.

Blackstone targets Canadian real estate, opens office in Toronto

The New York-based company, which has US$915.5-billion in assets under management, has been accused of profiting off the 2007 US housing meltdown after it bought swaths of distressed properties and then rented them out to US residents.

Blackstone has said it did not own any single-family homes before the crisis and didn’t foreclose on any of the properties. It has also said many of its purchases were homes that had been sitting vacant and dragging down local property values.

Blackstone has since sold that business and owns a rent-to-own business called Home Partners of America – one of the many players in a growing single-family home rental market in the US

“We don’t have a similar platform in Canada and we don’t have the intention of launching one because, from our perspective, we think there are just more interesting places to deploy capital in the Canadian market,” Mr. Meghji said.

ms. Lin, a former Canada Pension Plan Investment Board executive, is in charge of Blackstone’s expansion into Canada. She cited the country’s favorable immigration policies and its strong population growth as two key factors that make Canada a winner for Blackstone’s capital.

Blackstone mostly owns warehouses and other industrial space in Canada, as well as a couple of office towers. It also has some investments in apartment building developments. All together, they are worth about US$14-billion, according to Blackstone, representing just a tiny fraction of the company’s global real estate portfolio.

ms. Lin and mr. Meghji both said the company will continue to invest in industrial and top office buildings, as well as hotels.

Blackstone has previously said it expects its growth here will be significant. mr. Meghji would not quantify “significant” except to say he expects growth will be material and Canada could eventually command a larger share of Blackstone’s global real estate portfolio.

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