Foreign investors, taking advantage of currencies that are stronger than the U.S. dollar, are the latest group to join the growing number of investors buying distressed residential properties and converting them into rentals. The trend is drawing criticism from some housing advocates. "Having someone guarantee that renters will be there for a long time depresses values and makes it much harder for people to recoup lost equity and stabilize neighborhoods," said John Taylor, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

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