MAILBAG: Pure Greed: How Lakewood’s Housing Market is Being Held Hostage

I would like to thank Lakewood Alerts for writing about the incident in which two Jewish children faced antisemitic harassment in Jackson 21. However, I would like people to realize that the issue raised in the article – investors buying houses and then renting them out – is one of the biggest and most ignored concerns facing the greater Lakewood area.

Like all local residents, I am inundated with articles, op-eds, mailbags, letters to the editor, and dinner table discussions about how hard it is for people to buy a home. Everyone seems to have one idea or another about how to fix it: budget better, magically increase the housing supply, wait for interests rates to go down, etc. etc. None of them focus on the real culprit.

That real culprit consists of two types of people: realtors and investors. These two groups work in tandem and coordination to keep the housing supply down and prices up. Remember: realtors make more commission when prices are higher, and there is nobody better at keeping prices high than investors.

Let me give you a real-life example. This happened to me and similar stories have happened to many others I know: I placed an offer on a house in Jackson and the seller was about to accept it. Then, an investor swooped, offered slightly more than me and pressured the seller to accept his offer before I could make a counter-offer. That investor’s realtor then contacted my agent and offered to flip the house to me – for $75,000 more than what I could have bought it for originally. If I didn’t, the realtor warned, the investor would rent the home out to illegal immigrants. I declined the offer.

What happened? A hardworking family in need of a home had it essentially ripped out from underneath them by a fellow Jew looking to make a quick profit. Is it legal? Sure. Is it ethical? Absolutely not.

But the problem goes much deeper. Jackson has a housing supply of about 20,000 homes. 4,500 of them are rentals, and the vast majority of those rentals are owned by Jewish investors. That means approximately 1 in 4 homes in Jackson are rentals – squeezing the housing supply and forcing prices upwards. This leaves families without means finding it impossible to find a home to purchase, leaving them stuck for years in basement apartments they are popping out of.

Is there another side to the story? There always is. But in this case, the other side doesn’t have any good argument. I have attached a screenshot from a WhatsApp group of realtors discussing this very issue. One specifically mentions the Jackson 21, PLP (Pine Lake Park), and Candlewood neighborhoods as having lots of investor rentals.

But the realtor has a defense. He writes that if investors weren’t buying houses, then lots of realtors would be out of business, and if the homes purchased by the investors were rented out to Jews, the investors would be in foreclosure.

Let’s go through this twisted logic. He says if investors didn’t exist, then many realtors would be out of a job. So what? If your career is entirely based on investors, who are making it impossible for the hamon am to buy a home, find a new career! Why is your career more deserving of protection than thousands of families who are struggling to find a place to live? There are many ways to make money; doing it on the backs of your own community isn’t the derech hayashar.

His second point is that investors would be in foreclosure if they rented those homes to Jews. Again, so what? There are countless places you can invest your money. Why does it have to be in an area where you are hurting your brethren? Go find somewhere else to grow your cash pile.

As noted before, about 1 in 4 homes in Jackson are owned by investors. I assume similar if not higher numbers exist in Pine Lake Park, Candlewood, and many other areas. Don’t you think that increasing the housing supply by 25% would help families? Don’t you think prices would be more affordable? Everyone knows it would make prices cheaper, but realtors won’t admit it, because for many of them, their careers depend on people paying inflated prices – and leaving many families suffering.

I strongly believe it is high time that Rabbanim step in and call an end to this evil. Yes, it is evil, because countless families are being shut out of living a normal life. There should be clear takanos barring realtors and investors from colluding on purchasing local homes for sale. I don’t care if what they are doing is legal; it is not fair or ethical, and far too many people are being hurt.

Anonymous

The views expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect those of Lakewood Alerts. Have an opinion you would like to share? Send it to us for review by emailing Info@LakewoodAlerts.com

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45 COMMENTS

  1. Get a grip. The world doesn’t operate that way. “Rabbonim/Gedolim” can’t just wave a magic wand and fix the problems. I’m sorry you’re priced out but this is how it works in a capitalist society.

    • It is totally illegal and unethical.
      How would you like to live next to a house where the cops have come and executed warrants on wanted felons?
      Are we forced to let our kids be potential victims to these undocumented and unveted tenants while they play innocently outside our home?

      These are 1 family houses that are being rented to 6 different families/tenants and makes it an illegal use. This has now been converted to an illegal multifamily property, which is in a 1 family home. Follow the laws, or risk losing your investment when the …. hits the fan.

      Enough is enough, we have lost so many families to illegal conversions. Neighborhoods are getting ruined as well. Don’t forget about the parties with loud noise and music going late into the night, making it even more ‘enjoyable’. We & our kids are forced to see some things which we can’t unsee. The way the party goers are dressed and what they do in public for all to see and often becoming intoxicated.

      Don’t forget if these rentals have kids of school age, the community gets to pay for their public tuition with everyone’s property taxes going up to pay to educate these kids. So now all of the Town’s people get to pay a penalty for this rental in the form of higher property taxes for the kids illegally living there.
      So nice… legal and ethical.
      Thank you for bringing this to the public forum, which is way overdue.

  2. SO TRUE!! I went to an open house on a home that we were not even so happy about buying, just we are desperate. It was a young ehrlich area, and as were leaving some older XC-90 guy with his fancy clothing pulls up to check it out. We put in an offer way over asking and way over what it was worth, and we still lost it.

  3. While i dont know there is a fix to this problem I do know personally that investors buy houses that there is large interest in in well populated frum areas.
    And then rent them out.
    It is incredibly annoying if nothing else.
    Jacks up prices. Aside from who they rent the houses to…

  4. If its so horrible here maybe its time to go home. The goyim dont want us and it is becoming more difficult then ever to continue with the current setup. We have made the hard choice to go home to eretz yisroel where we belong.

  5. Why does your wanting to by a home have precedence over their supporting their family? Why should all these people lose their parnoso so people should be able to buy a home?

    • Ok, so I will go create a Ponzi scheme to support my family. Who cares if a few people lose their pants? I need to support my family.
      WOW…The self-centeredness these days…

      There are PLENTY of other cities in America to invest your money….
      Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself. Just imagine one of your children bought in one of these neighborhoods…

    • So why not move to NY and make a living shoplifitng? You won’t get arrested, and it’s more ethical then stealing houses from people.

  6. Being legal doesn’t make it kosher, obviously. If we want HaShem to tone down the antisemitism and see that we are deserving of the Bais HaMikdash, then we are obliged to, up the Kiddush HaShem, not just among B’nei Noach, but among ourselves.

    Otherwise it’s pretty certain that no investments will have much value, in short order r”l.

  7. Reading comprehension, my friend. He is saying that obviously investors and realtors still think it’s a good idea, which is why the realtors are talking about it. If they stop buying there, the *chat* goes out of business because the chat is about investment in that area.

  8. This article is very not Yashrusdik. We have laws that run the country & then we have Halachos that run our Jewish lives. There are clear Halachos about purchasing property & who has a right to it, and whether we’re allowed to rent our houses to non-jews, in a Jewish neighborhood. As long as our fellow Yidden-that happen to be investors-are following these Halachos, it is very not right of you to be bad-mouthing people like this. Talk about bringing Mashiach!
    Today you happen to be at the stage of life that you’re looking to buy a house. Iy”h I Bentsch you that you should have Mazel in business & be on the other side of the fence on this. I promise your argument will not be the same & you suddenly won’t be so fired up about this. Also, even if you are not ever an investor, the second you do own a house, you will be thanking all the investors around you for making your house double in value so quickly, allowing you refi your house to marry off your children etc.
    I hate to say it, but it’s a fact: of course houses get higher rent when we put in non-Jewish tenants, but let’s overlook that for a minute. Are we allowed to talk about the fact that if (when) a Jewish tenant decides not to pay rent, we have 000 option or recourse on the matter? If we even start the eviction process, we get Cheirim letters & harassed. What kind of sad state of Yidishkeit is it when a owner of a house can’t do anything about their Jewish tenant not paying rent?? That’s also a very primary reason why investors avoid Jewish tenants unfortunately.
    And how about the fact that when an investor wants to raise the rent on their Jewish tenants, they have 000 chance of it happening smoothly without a giant fight, involving Rabbanim etc.?
    And how about the fact that when an investor wants to sell their house, or move in themselves, they have 000 chance of getting their Jewish tenant to move out of THEIR house?? Plain old Gezailah.
    But you seemed to not mention these facts.
    So bottom line, noone can expect people not to buy houses as investments.
    There might be an argument that we should be trying to rent out our investment to Jews, over non-Jews. But sadly, that’s almost impossible to do, because of the Jewish tenants.
    I wish it was different.
    Wishing everyone the best.

    • Correct, take advantage of the frum families that need houses, buy out every house on the market so theres nothing remotely affordable. And the second we get together and start a new community, buy out all those houses as well.The only thing that’ll make you happy is if all frum families are homeless. Well, I have good news, we’re almost there, thanks to greedy investors who are gobbling up every house (and then renting them illegally to 6 families)

    • You make very interesting points. I still think that the investors should try their best to vet their tenants and make sure they aren’t going to cause problems to their frum neighbors. Also their is a gemara that says that someone that is trying to buy a house and someone swoops in and grabs it away is called a rasha.

  9. 1. Is it true that if investors weren’t part of the buyers market then half of realtors won’t have business? wouldn’t there be enough end user buyers?

    2. Yiddish Tennants don’t pay rent or am I missing something?

    • 2. Yiddish tenants only pay normal market rent, whereas investors bring in tenants that move in with 6 families together, so they can afford more rent.

      • which is clearly Illegal, send code enforcement to go after these illegal rental and the rental market will self-correct.

    • B’H most most Yiddishe tenants obviously pay rent, of course. However, there are some that don’t. And if a non-Jew doesnt pay rent, they are out of the house in 6 weeks, but a Jewish tenant can’t be kicked out. As investors with mortgages to pay every month, it’s not worth it to take the risk & put in Jewish tenants.

  10. Wow. I am in awe of the Loshon Hara, motsei shea ra, chillul Hashem and many other serious lavim that the author is over on. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I wonder if he asked hi Rav if this was ok to post, or was he just a chossid shoteh.

    • I’m not sure which side is right, but is it loshon hora if it’s about a group of unamed people?
      If it is, I Stand corrected

  11. Go move to Cleveland if you have a problem with people making a parnassah that maybe makes it harder for you to live in your luxurious Lakewood lifestyle that you apparently find is impossible for people to part with. Maybe you need to find a simpler alternative to living in the most sought after Jewish market in the country

  12. Tony Shtark, are you implying that young families scraping together money to buy their first house are generally living luxurious lifestyles? Lakewood is full of Yeshivaleit and simple Balabatim who don’t eat out, drive simple cars and are looking to live in simple homes. Jackson 21 is a townhome community. Pine Lake Park and candlewood are simple, small, older single-family homes. All are far from the “Luxurious Lakewood lifestyle” you are referring to.

  13. The same thing has happened in many Jewish areas. Its not illegal but its not ethical. It continues to hurt frum familes in Lakewood and in many other areas too. There is no way I can see to stop it as young frum families need places to live, and will pay the exorbitant sums of flipped homes as there are very few other viable options.
    However, I dont believe Rabbonim are able to stop this. There is only 1 community in the world where this has worked – only because thats how it has always been, that is Gateshead UK.
    It is a capitalist market, where the highest $ wins.

  14. If investors are renting where 6 families are living in one house it’s fire Hazzard and against local laws and if they took out a mortgage not in compliance of mortgsge terms REPORT THEM
    safety issue for neighbors

  15. Actually in Pine Lake Park we work very hard that houses that go to investors get a Frum tenant. All the realtors know that we will fight hard for it.

  16. Agreed there are plenty of places to park cash if needed jacking up the frum housing market should not be one of them!

  17. This article is spot on, one point you neglected to mention.
    So Mr Investor goes and purchases that home and rents it out to illegals , not one illegal family, they wouldn’t be able to afford 5k a month rent , rather 4-5 illegal families.
    There are so many things wrong with this .
    1. You are destroying the quality of life in the area
    2. Taking advantages of the illegals by stiffing them in subhuman conditions cause they are new here and have little income
    3. Lowering the values of the homes in the area
    But the letter writer is SPOT ON! The realtors and investors have literally ruined it for a Kollel man to ever afford a home unless he has a realtor parent.

  18. @Sometimes Poster Noach and all other smart people
    What moitzi Shem rah are u talking about to you live with this next door to you obviously not ….I have been an in close contact with a senior Lakewood rav and he told me I can go to the landlords house and blast music all night long just as his tenants do another rav advised taking pictures of the landlord and posting it in the newspaper
    For all the groiseh chachamim that just learnt the sugya in Daf yomi בבא מציאה bקח the gemara says זבין לגוי וכו שמותי ודאי שמתינן that he is excommunicated until he accepts on himself all the damage caused by the goy ע״ש @ noach are you following Halacha the gemara says it’s not yashrus no there is no clear halchos here no rav will ever tell you you can rent out a house to a goy next door to a yid lechatchila there are absolutely no clear halochos when it comes to ועשיתה הישר והטוב
    Now please explain to me why you you think this is loshon Hora this article should have been written with names of landlords and their current address shame on them

  19. Now we will get the same sob story about schools/ tuition.
    Who is ruining our schools plus other deep insights
    Whose fault it is and who is making a quick profit from tuitions etc.
    Just waiting for the right yingehmahn to post the details.

  20. It’s interesting to see the language used by people quoting gemaras.
    It may be Lashon Hora to speak about a collective group of people [ realtors]
    I don’t believe investors are the ones having as much an affect on the prices rising as is assumed.
    It doesn’t even make much sense cause you’re saying the slum lording is causes value to drop and so that should help prices drop.
    Less inventory does have an effect but not enough to make such a difference for the pricing.There are hoa’s in Howell which don’t allow rentals and I believe the prices are going up just as fast Also I don’t see it realistic to ask all Rabbonim to ask all investors not to buy. [ besides for the fact that it may not be legal to ban investors from buying unless its an hoa by- law or done on a township level.
    lakewood is not the only place with rising prices. Go 10 min up the 9 to freehold/Mananlapan and the prices are higher
    Even in cleveland prices are up 50%-100% from a few years ago and there aren’t as many investors as this market.The market is just high all over.
    Investors usually don’t pay as high as homeowners and to make a whole shpiel that investors shouldn’t buy so that will be more inventory doesn’t seem justified. In any case, every market in the world has investors. It doesn’t seem reasonable to say the only solution to the housing crisis is to be the only town to not allow rentals. It seems like more of a plea of desperation.

    • Wrong!!! It is 10000% illegal to charge rent to soo many people in a 1 family. These people are taking up all houses and sew charging $4,500 for rent in my neighborhood. How is this halachigly OK???
      It is against the law and halacha.

      Ask your own shaila as I have gotten a psack you’re allowed to report such evil behavior

  21. Hit me up with any issues we can talk face to face I can’t believe I wasted my time on this article go learn or hock in the coffee room lol
    Best regards local realtor +1 732-623-3144

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