Build-to-rent homes are all over metro Phoenix, but is that really a good thing?

The idea of “Build to Rent” (BTR) – the concept that homes are intentionally built to be rented and never sold – is taking hold in the Valley, with more than 5,000 BTR units in the metro Phoenix area and another 6,900 under construction.

Advocates say it is fulfilling a need, given the influx of new residents in Maricopa County and the lack of housing.

But is this where our housing resources should go?

Industry titans such as BlackRock, Greystar, Pacific Life and Tricon Residential are cheerleading the BTR concept, giving little interest to the long-term ramifications of these homes – typically starter homes – never being sold to American families.

In Phoenix, approximately 40% of home purchases were by investors last year.

Asking if BTR is a good idea is an essential consideration for the future of both the current and next generation of homebuyers.

Our homeownership ideas grew out of WWII
TerraLane Communities has developments of single-family rental homes in Phoenix, Goodyear and Surprise.
To know where we are going, we need to stop and look backward.

The U.S. housing industry’s current form was born during WWII and the major expansion thereafter. Founded in 1942, the National Association of Builders and others helped shepherd a GI bill that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law in 1944.

A key provision in that bill were low-interest, zero-down-payment home loans for servicemen coming back from WWII, encouraging millions of Americans to move from apartments and into homes.

This key development created the backbone for the rise of the modern middle class in the 20th century.

Today, the largest generational cohort in this country are millennials, who are now actively engaged in household formation.

Based on Census Bureau data, Arizona ranks sixth in the nation for where millennials are moving. This generation must compete with big Wall Street behemoths for a simple three-bedroom house to start a family.

What if millennials can’t afford to own?
TerraLane at Canyon Trails in Goodyear has more than 250 homes.
In all the cheerleading from major national publications, has somebody stopped to ask, “Is it good for young families to own their own home or for BlackRock to own this home?”

“Is it a good idea for young families to have a set mortgage payment from a local bank or to rely on the tender mercies of Wall Street to keep rents reasonable?”

Story from Zenb
ZENB makes pasta more sustainable and nutritious
The yellow pea is powering more sustainable pasta with the same delicious taste.
See More →
Already, rents in Phoenix surged 25% in 2021 over 2020 rents, according to the March John Burns Real Estate Consulting Phoenix market report.

We need to ask ourselves, as a country, do we want to lock out a whole generation of Americans out of homeownership?

Homeownership has been one of the few ways for the middle class to create generational wealth.

Every mortgage payment a family makes means they have built a little more equity in that home. At the end of 30 years of payments, the family owns a valuable asset.

A generation may be unable to build wealth
Every rent payment a renter makes creates wealth for corporate titans. The BTR trend – if it continues – will have a generational transfer of wealth.

A large portion of 72 million American millennials – instead of building their own wealth – will be transferring large sums of money to pump up the already bloated balance sheets of Big Wall Street.

These long-term actions will make housing a luxury good to be experienced by only the well off.

There is a place for apartments and even single-family rentals. But the Build-to-Rent market is going overboard, gobbling up the opportunities for first-time homebuyers to find a home they can afford. The homes investors are buying for rentals could be purchased by first-time homebuyers.

The land that could be used to build starter homes is being used for single-family rentals. In this tight housing market, these corporate landlords are taking away opportunities for first-time homebuyers.

Ask questions before build-to-rent takes over
The questions we need to ask ourselves in the U.S. are these:

Do we want to be the generation who cut off access to the American Dream in Arizona and elsewhere in favor of corporate landlords?
Are we going to be the cohort of Americans that destroyed one of the last remaining ways for the middle class to build generational wealth so companies could have record profits?
Or do we want to go back to the good ol’ days and let everyone own their own homes and have a fair shot?
The Phoenix metro area is already No. 1 in the nation for Build-to-Rent homes.

Tempe’s plan for the Arizona Coyotes is trouble for Sky Harbor Airport
When will Arizona run out of water? That’s the wrong question to ask
Trump’s endorsement didn’t doom Mark Brnovich. He did that on his own
There are 50 active BTR communities in the Valley and an incredible 160 more in various planning stages. This will strip the availability of starter homes in the region, destroying pathways to wealth accumulation and generally undoing 70 years of advancement for middle-class Americans.

Alex Kamkar is a managing shareholder of Houston-based Bold Fox Development and a city council member for the city of Pearland, a Houston suburb. He has more than 15 years experience in the homebuilding and single-family, master-planned development industries. Reach him at


AUTHOR: Alex Kamkar

Join AZ Housing For All

Fill out the information below to join our newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.