Nikole Hannah-Jones slams Jay-Z and Will Smith's rent-to-own housing startup as 'predatory'

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Nikole Hannah-Jones slams Jay-Z and Will Smith's rent-to-own housing startup as 'predatory'
Jay-Z and Will Smith. Shareif Ziyadat / Steve Jennings / Getty Images
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones ripped a start-up firm backed by Jay-Z and Will Smith as "predatory."
  • Jay-Z's Roc Nation and Smith's Dreamers VC recently invested in the start-up Landis Technologies.
  • The firm aims to help low-income renters own a home.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has slammed a tech startup firm - financially backed by Jay-Z and Will Smith - that aims to help low-income renters own a home as "predatory."

"Credit counseling is not what will take low-income renters to homeowners, wealth will," Hannah-Jones said in a tweet posted earlier this month.

Hannah-Jones added, "All this program does is charge struggling people additional fees for being poor, which is what every other predatory lender does."

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The tweet linked to an article about how Jay-Z's Roc Nation and Smith's Dreamers VC recently invested in the start-up Landis Technologies.

According to its website, the company "helps renters transition to homeownership."

"We allow our customers to select their dream home and rent it for up to 2 years while they get ready for a mortgage," the site says. "We also offer tools and incentives to our customers to improve their credit and build up their down payment."

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The start-up has raised $165 million from a group of investors including Jay-Z's Roc Nation, Smith's Dreamers VC, and Sequoia Capital, Fortune reported.

Landis Technologies co-founder Cyril Berdugo told Insider Monday that Hannah-Jones' comments about the company are "false."

"A lot of the things that were said are not true," Berdugo said, explaining, "we don't charge additional fees, we don't charge credit counseling fees," and "we're not a lender and we are not predatory."

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Berdugo continued, "We really care about finanical literacy and financial inclusion for our clients ... we are the company that makes people reach homeownership."

The firm, Berdugo said, "made the decision to never charge for coaching or counseling or anything like that."

Landis has reached out to Hannah-Jones regarding her remarks, but she has not responded, Berdugo said.

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"We would love to talk to Nikole," he said.

Reps for Roc Nation and Dreamers VC did not immediately return Insider's requests for comment on Monday.

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