Criticism of Blackstone is unfounded and contradictory

Criticism of Blackstone is unfounded and contradictory

To the editor:

In Bill Rossello’s March 14 column “Becoming a one-faction town” in the March 14 Alexandria Times, Rossello argues that the Alexandria Democratic Committee and the mayor and City Council have been unduly influenced by investment firm Blackstone, citing as evidence the campaign donations of a Blackstone board member who lives in Alexandria. His column draws a direct line from Councilor Alyia Gaskins’ vote on the Zoning for Housing changes that eliminated single-family zoning to a donation this unnamed board member made to her campaign the following week.

Putting aside his unfounded insinuation that this donation was somehow improper, Rossello’s claim of influence makes little sense on the facts. As he correctly notes, Blackstone has recently gotten back into the single-family home ownership business, acquiring two companies that together own approximately 62,000 single-family homes – though only 486 in the entire Washington metro area.

However, as Blackstone has repeatedly stated, it sees these assets as good investments because of the artificially restrained supply of housing. If Blackstone wanted to maximize this investment, it would want to prevent changes to the zoning code that would allow for the building of more housing units. In fact, it would likely have wanted to support candidates with platforms much like the one Rossello ran on in 2021, not supporters of Zoning for Housing.

It makes sense, then, that this donation came from an individual and not from Blackstone itself. What Rossello has discovered is a fellow citizen with a day job who has opinions independent of his or her job.

Rossello should apologize, as his assertions are incoherent and contradictory.

-Joe Fray, Alexandria