Kushner Owns Thousands Of Baltimore Apartments, Some Infested With Rodents
“There’s a certain irony in hearing the president attacking a city and region when his own son-in-law was directly involved in creating the conditions where that quality of life was threatened.”
President Trump targeted Baltimore in his most recent Twitter outburst, describing Rep. Elijah Cummings as a “brutal bully” and calling his district, Maryland’s Seventh, a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Ironically, Trump’s rendition of Baltimore matches the way local tenants have described rental properties owned by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
Kushner Companies, where Jared was CEO from 2008 to 2017 before joining the Trump administration, owns some 9,000 rental properties in Maryland, with more than 7,200 in Baltimore county. As reported by the Washington Post, the real estate firm has generated hundreds of complaints including raw sewage coming from kitchen sinks; rodent and maggot infestations; mold; and faulty electrical wiring.
Numerous others complain of illegal fees and threats of eviction to force their payment.
“Basically, Kushner has been creating a race to the bottom in terms of poorly maintained properties,” Shannon Darrow, a program manager at the tenant advocacy group Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland, told the Washington Post. “He’s been very, very deeply implicated.”
Baltimore county officials fined Kushner Companies in 2017 for violating over 200 code violations in their apartments.
“We expect all landlords to comply with the code requirements that protect the health and safety of their tenants,” county officials said in a statement, “even if the landlord’s father-in-law is president of the United States.”
“We had to both threaten significant fines as well as withholding federal payments to ensure there was compliance,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr told the Baltimore Sun. “There’s a certain irony in hearing the president attacking a city and region when his own son-in-law was directly involved in creating the conditions where that quality of life was threatened.”
Kushner Companies Meant To Provide Subsidized Housing
The New York Times reported in 2017 that because Baltimore County has no public housing, Kushner Company’s properties served as the “de facto substitute.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has given the real estate firm $6 million in subsidies since 2015, according to the Baltimore Sun.
“You’re talking about a company that was using local taxpayer dollars to help subsidize these apartments,” Olszewski said, “and they were frankly in conditions that as a father I wouldn’t want to raise my daughter or my family in.”
Although Kushner Companies received federal aid to help provide housing for low-income residents, the company’s affiliates aggressively pursued former tenants for unpaid debt, filing at least 1,250 legal actions against tenants from 2013 to 2017, according to the Sun. Judges awarded a total of $5.4 million to Kushner affiliates against tenants who owed $4,400 on average.
Kushner’s Conflicts Of Interest
Kushner retains an ownership stake in the company, which is facing ongoing lawsuits for the alleged violations. Kushner’s firm moved the suits to state court after a federal judge ruled the company’s investors had to be disclosed.
Kushner Companies isn’t the only business involved with the president’s son-in-law under public scrutiny. Cadre, a real-estate company partly owned by Kushner, has risen fivefold in value since Kushner joined the White House in 2017. Located in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven that guarantees accounting secrecy, Cadre manages more than $522 million in assets. Because the firm’s investors are not disclosed to the public, critics are concerned it could be used by foreign actors to influence Kushner’s policy agenda.
Despite maintaining 25% ownership of Cadre, Kushner failed to include the company on his first ethics disclosure, contributing to controversy regarding his security clearance.
“The problem with Kushner—and with Trump—is that we have all these corporate entities, and often nobody knows who is invested in them and where those investors borrowed their money. We simply have no idea,” Richard Painter, a former Bush administration ethics lawyer, told the Guardian.