Greed Runs in the Family: Maryland Seeks Justice for Victims of Trump Real Estate Exploit

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is in hot water in Maryland.  Kushner, who is married to President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is under investigation by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh for exploiting tenants living in properties owned by Kushner Companies.

Before he was a senior White House advisor, Kushner was CEO of his family’s real estate conglomerate, Kushner Companies.  Most known for its upscale New York City real estate holdings, Kushner Companies has for years exploited Baltimoreans seeking affordable housing.

An explosive New York Times investigation earlier this year revealed “a clear pattern of Kushner Companies’ pursuing tenants over virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease — even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side.”  The company has even pursued some tenants for civil arrest.  The Times unearthed a whopping 548 cases that Kushner Companies has brought against unsuspecting Maryland tenants through its secretive subsidiary, JK2 Westminster–named for Jared Kushner himself.

In addition to taking unsuspecting tenants and former tenants to court over minuscule sums of money, Kushner Companies has made its contempt for its Baltimore tenants very clear by posting late rent notices in common spaces to embarrass tenants and poorly maintaining their units.  Because many of Kushner’s Baltimore-area properties are occupied by low-income families who qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers, six members of Maryland’s congressional delegation have sent a letter to Kushner Companies demanding tenant records to ensure they comply with federal housing regulations; Kushner’s unethical and exploitative behavior has also prompted tenants to file a class-action lawsuit against Kushner Companies.

Maryland is hardly the only place where the Kushner family is reaping profits at the expense of its hardworking tenants.  In 2011, the Kushners bought out multifamily apartment complexes in a dozen metropolitan areas hit hard by the Great Recession.  In 2012, they expanded their holdings to the Baltimore region, mostly in northern Baltimore County, where they now control 5,500 units in 15 different apartment complexes–home to about 20,000 people. It is impossible to know how many tenants Kushner has exploited across the country.

Both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have played outsized roles in Trump administration.  At one point, Kushner’s portfolio included creating peace in the Middle East, reforming our criminal justice system, solving the nationwide opioid economic, leading the newly created White House Office of Innovation, and acting as a liaison to Mexico, China, and the U.S. Muslim community.  That’s a tall order for a 36-year-old real estate developer with zero political experience prior to his father-in-law’s presidential campaign.  He has since downscaled his duties as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates his possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign, but Trump still counts Kushner as one of his closest confidantes.

Kushner’s actions shouldn’t come as a big surprise, given his father-in-law Trump’s well-known history of predatory real estate practices.  Still, it’s unsettling to know that someone who has profited from maliciously exploiting low-income communities is in a position of such power in the White House.