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Inside Real Estate (Sep 11th, 2019)

1. China’s Anbang Insurance Group has finally sold off its luxury hotel portfolio for $5.8 billion. It was around one year ago that Anbang marketed the 15 hotels as a single asset group for $5.5 billion. The properties within the group included many well-known hotels such as the Essex House Hotel in New York City and the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole. The hotels were sold to Mirae Asset Global Investment which purchased them despite a problem with a title search that led to a discovery of fraudulent deed transfers on some of the California hotels. The title issues had to be corrected before the sale could be finalized. Anbang is continuing to divest itself of its assets and is now trying to sell $2.4 billion in Japanese properties. The potential purchaser is rumored to be Blackstone Group, the company that sold Anbang both its U.S. hotel portfolio and the Japanese assets. — WSJ

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2. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and several other representatives teamed up with the Center for Popular Democracy to raise awareness of the crisis in affordable housing. The Center for Popular Democracy staged protests on several key issues to welcome politicians in Washington back from summer vacation. After speeches by  Ocasio-Cortez, Jesús "Chuy" García (D-IL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna S. Pressley (D-MA), protestors issued ‘eviction’ notices to several Republican representatives. The Center for Popular Democracy's “A Home To Thrive” campaign calls for an overhaul of current policies, including slowing evictions and increasing funding for public housing. The group is also taking aim at the massive single-family rental companies that have grown in recent years, calling for the companies to disclose their eviction rates and tenant turnovers among other key statistics. — ROLL CALL

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3. Jargon Watch: Superblocks may be the future of urban design. The structure, which has been pioneered in Barcelona, groups together nine blocks of urban space into an area that dramatically limits traffic and creates space for pedestrians and green space. Barcelona has created just six superblocks over the past three years but plans to transform large parts of the city. For more details on the superblocks experiment, this mini-documentary is an excellent overview.

Now that there's talk of Seattle trying the superblocks idea, this model could catch on in the United States. Other cities have tried similar concepts such as road diets which reduce the number of available lanes on major streets. Both are just two of the many ways that cities are planning for a future that hopefully includes fewer cars and more green spaces. — FAST COMPANY

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4. California is one step closer to statewide rent control. Assembly Bill 1482, the Tenant Protection Act, was passed by state senators with a 25-10 vote. The bill will limit rent increases to five percent a year for buildings over 15 years old. California Governor Gavin Newsom has spoken in favor of the legislation and is expected to sign it if it passes through the Assembly. AB 1482 also includes other protections for renters who have occupied their homes for over one year. — KTLA
 

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5. PropertyGuru, an online real estate platform that operates in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, is planning an Australian initial public offering that could raise as much as $275 million U.S. The IPO could be the biggest of the year in Australia. IPOs have slowed dramatically in Australia, there were only 20 during the first half of the year. PropertyGuru chief executive Hari Krishnan recently told the Australian Financial Review that the company may expand into other markets. — DEALSTREET ASIA

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6. A group of real estate professionals in New York has been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and related wire fraud counts as part of a scheme to purchase real estate at falsely lowered prices. Iskyo Aronov, Michael Konstantinovskiy, Tomer Dafna, Avraham Tarshish and Michael Herskowitz are accused of defrauding mortgage lenders by providing misleading transaction documents, leading to the approval of short sale transactions with lower prices. The group then flipped the properties for a higher price and kept the profits. The defendants could face up to $1 million in fines. — GREAT NECK PATCH

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7. Icon has used its 3D printing technology to build the welcome center for the Community First! Village, a community for the homeless in Austin, Texas. Icon debuted its first 3D printed homes last year as a solution for housing issues both in the U.S. and other countries. It can print a home using a concrete base in less than two days. Icon will use its Vulcan II printer to create six homes in the Community First! Village. Community First! has expanded to 51 acres and uses a wide variety of housing solutions from tiny houses to RVs and tent-like “canvas-sided” homes. — KVUE

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8. Neighborhood social networking site Nextdoor closed out its latest funding round with $170 million giving it a valuation of $2.1 billion. This financing includes the $123 million that Nextdoor announced in May along with additional investment from investment firm, Bond. Mary Meeker, who raised a tidy $1.25 billion, for Bond's first growth fund, will join Nextdoor's board. Nextdoor increasingly relies on real estate agents for revenue and has expanded its real estate features over the last several years including adding property valuations earlier this year. — TECHCRUNCH

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9. A massive 470-acre ranch in Oklahoma is being sold at auction in four separate tracts. The Whitmire Ranch, which was formerly known as the Historic Washington Ranch, was once owned by Billy Washington, an enterprising cattleman who came to the state in 1880 and once created an empire with around 115,000 head of cattle. The ranch includes the 8,500-square foot Cattleman’s Castle built in 1888. The main house will be sold with the main tract which is 318 acres and also features equestrian facilities. The remaining land may be divided up into homesites. The auction takes place on September 17. An even larger ranch, the 1,463-acre River Bluff Ranch near Weatherford, Texas,  goes up for auction on September 19. — DALLAS BUSINESS JOURNAL

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10. A new version of Monopoly — the board game in which children are taught the pain of paying rent and the joy of charging rent — removes some of the real estate focus. The new Ms. Monopoly game is a modernized version of the game where things like railroads and the electric company are replaced by ride-hailing services and Wi-Fi. The new game puts the emphasis on inventions by women and instead of putting houses and hotels on properties, players now build business headquarters. The original game was developed by Lizzie Magie, who created the concept of a game to show the potential dangers of wealth concentration through real estate. — LA TIMES

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Written and curated by Deidre Woollard. Deidre has a background in real estate public relations and runs the largest Facebook group for real estate press opportunities. Tips welcome at deidre@inside.com.

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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