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Fact Check-Bill Gates doesn’t own most U.S. farmland; BlackRock doesn’t own most houses

Claims online that billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates owns the majority of U.S. farmland and that BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, owns the majority of U.S. single-family houses are factually inaccurate, according to industry data and spokespeople for Gates and BlackRock.

“Bill Gates is buying up the majority of American farmland and BlackRock is buying the majority of single-family houses but I'm supposed to believe the biggest threat to us is Elon Musk buying Twitter?” one Twitter user wrote (here). The tweet had gathered over 215,000 likes at the time of writing. An archived version of the tweet can be found (archive.ph/8Tq36).

Another meme circulating online reads: “Bill Gates is buying all the farmland. Recently, Bill Gates has purchased 300,000 acres of farmland, you would think that buying all of the farmland would be bigger news than Elon Musk buying all of Twitter (here).

Other examples can be seen (here), (here).

BILL GATES AND U.S. FARMLAND

Gates does not own the majority of U.S. farmland.

Reuters traced the figure cited by social media posts as the number of acres owned by Bill Gates to ‘The Land Report’, which reports on major land ownership in the United States. The figure cited by The Land Report was subsequently reported by major news outlets including Business Insider and Forbes (here), (here).

According to a January 2021 article by ‘The Land Report’, Gates owned 242,000 acres of farmland through two investment management firms - Cottonwood Ag Management and Cascade Investment (here).

The figure is far below the total area of U.S. farmland. A 2021 report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said there were 895,300,000 acres of farmland in the United States. (here). Using those figures, Gates would own about 0.027% of U.S. farmland.

A spokesperson for Gates also told Reuters the claim that Gates owns the majority of U.S. farmland was false, pointing to the USDA figures.

In a statement to Reuters, editor of ‘The Land Report’ and author of the article published by the outlet on farmland owned by Gates, Eric O’ Keefe, called the claim “absurd.”

While Gates does not own the majority of U.S. farmland, he is the largest private farmland owner, according to ‘The Land Report’. (here) (here). (here).

BLACKROCK AND SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES

While BlackRock does not directly own single-family houses, as the world’s largest asset manager (here), it owns stock in companies that do. But these companies do not own a majority of U.S. single-family homes.

Invitation Homes, for example, has approximately 80,000 homes for lease across the country and is the largest landlord for single-family homes in the United States (here) (here). American Homes 4 Rent holds around 57,024 single-family properties (here). BlackRock is a shareholder in both companies (here) (here).

There are 94.6 million single-family houses in the United States, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau American Housing Survey (2019) (bit.ly/3seI7kV). As of the latest Rental Housing Finance Survey (2018), there were 19.955 million rental properties in the United States (bit.ly/3FdPtKZ), 17.16 million of them single unit rental properties (bit.ly/3KLCjWH). Just over 70% of these were owned by individual investors. For context, Invitation Homes and American Homes 4 Rent’s combined homes would be less than 1% of the 17.16 million homes, if total housing numbers stayed the same in the last three years.

Contacted by Reuters, a BlackRock spokesperson said: “BlackRock is not buying single-family homes and is not competing with individuals to purchase houses in America.”

Business entities have, however, been increasing their presence as owners of rental properties. According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) (here), using data of the Rental Housing Finance Survey, between 2001 and 2018 the proportion of rental properties owned by non-individual investors, which include partnerships, trustees for estate, real estate corporations, real estate investment trusts, and other entities, increased from 18% to 26%.

Real estate investors overall have also been increasingly targeting single-family homes. According to Redfin, single-family housing represented over 70% of the properties purchased by investors in the third quarter of 2021 (here).

VERDICT

False. Bill Gates does not own the majority of U.S. farmland. As of 2020, industry reports show he owned about 0.027% of U.S. farmland. While private companies and corporations are increasing their ownership of U.S. homes, BlackRock, through its investments, does not own a majority of single-family homes.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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