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by Selam Aster

Would gangs make good real estate investors?

I thought about this question when I heard yet another friend complaining about the drawbacks of owning rental property. James owns a four unit building in South Los Angeles, formerly known as “South Central.” Owning property in South Central doesn’t automatically guarantee him less-than-reliable renters as it is a fact that it’s difficult to find good renters anywhere you are, even for luxury buildings.

James had two problems on his hands when I spoke to him last. He had two sets of renters who had stopped paying rent. One tenant promised that she’d be out in 30 days but that was just code for saying she’d stop paying after 30 days. The other just stopped paying altogether.

Although James had started the eviction proceedings on the first tenant, he was hesitant about filing eviction papers for the second one, hoping he could find a way to compromise with her. He also believed that if he got tough with the second tenant, she would surely demolish the place before she left.  I’ve heard numerous horror stories of tenants and I always wondered how the attitude of these said tenants would have differed if they were too scared of the landlord to be playing these type of games.

Gangs, I believe, would make great owners and landlords. Managing a real estate property takes a lot of organization. Gangs are pretty organized, are they not? And it requires having the stomach to deal with unpredictable tenants. But in this case, that shouldn’t be an issue. Someone who is living in a property managed by a gang can rest assured that all their needs will be taken care of as long as they play by the rules. He or she will, however, be discouraged from breaking those rules, falling behind on rent, and disrespecting the property owners. We know why, right?

As much as investing in real estate is glorified as a easy way to accumulate wealth, having to deal with occupancies and tenants and building repairs is a large, and under-reported, part of the job. It’s a lot for one investor to handle. Gangs have strength in numbers. Imagine if gangs took up the job of investing in real estate in their neighborhoods.

It doesn’t require education and assimilation to run this type of operation; you don’t have to change your speech pattern or wear a suit and tie or even swallow your pride to get into the real estate investment game. A gang that is involved in the illegal drug business can seamlessly transfer their skills into the legal real estate business.  Of course we know the stakes are not as high in the real estate game and I’m not proposing a Stringer Bell type of operation where drug money is funneled to fund high profile real estate investments, but with a little effort, gangs can use their minds and bodies to invest in, rather than deplete, their communities.

Gangs are composed of those who have little interest in integrating into mainstream society or those who have no faith in their own potential for traditional success.  Funneling energy into a proper business, with hopes that the members of the gang would treat each member as a staff member and be committed to doing their job properly, would pave the way for a positive relationship between these men and their sense of self-worth as well as between these groups and their neighborhoods.

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