Nikole Hannah-Jones isn’t a fan of Will Smith and Jay Z’s latest business investment. Last month, it was announced that Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Will Smith’s Dreamers VC would be investing into a startup called Landis Technologies for their homeownership program. The goal is to increase opportunities to buy homes within the low-income community. To do so, the company buys homes and rents it to the tenant until they can qualify for a mortgage. With the $165 million Landis Technologies hopes to raise, they plan to purchase about 1,000 homes in order to help at least 80% of their clients become homeowners. Clients can also improve their credit while in the program.
“We allow our customers to select their dream home and rent it for up to two years while they get ready for a mortgage,” reads the website. “We also offer tools and incentives to our customers to improve their credit and build up their down payment.”
On Twitter, Jones called their program “predatory” and said this isn’t the answer to increasing homeownership.
“Credit counseling is not what will take low-income renters to homeowners, wealth will,” Jones tweeted. “All this program does is charge struggling people additional fees for being poor, which is what every other predatory lender does.”
Cyril Berdugo, the CEO of Landis Technologies, denied Jones’ claims.
“A lot of the things that were said are not true,” Berdugo told Insider. “We don’t charge additional fees, we don’t charge credit counseling fees and we’re not a lender and we are not predatory. We really care about financial literacy and financial inclusion for our clients…we are the company that makes people reach homeownership.”
Berdugo added that he “would love to talk to Nikole” and that he reached out but didn’t get a response. Smith, Jay Z and the other investor Sequoia Capital didn’t respond to her claims.