In California, powerful, deep-pocketed players in the real estate industry shelled out a whopping $77.3 million to stop Proposition 10 — and to halt the grassroots effort to urgently address the state’s devastating housing affordability and homeless crises. Multi-billion-dollar real estate investment trusts (REITs) such as Blackstone Group, Essex Property Trust, and Equity Residential led the corporate charge.
Housing Is A Human Right has examined campaign contributions to three No on Prop 10 committees: Californians for Responsible Housing, Californians for Affordable Housing, and No on 10: A Flawed Initiative. All were significantly involved in the defeat of Prop 10 this November.
Prop 10 would have repealed statewide restrictions on rent control and allowed communities to expand rent control policies. Even though the ballot measure was not approved, it won in key regions that are among the hardest hit by California’s housing affordability and homeless crises: the City of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Alameda County.
The initiative also won in numerous L.A. County cities: Burbank, Culver City, Glendale, Inglewood, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood, among others.
In addition, more than 525 organizations and civic and elected leaders endorsed Proposition 10, creating a broad housing coalition that included AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Sierra Club, the ACLU, the National Urban League, the California Democratic Party, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
Yet Prop 10 opponents outspent supporters by more than three to one, bankrolling deceptive TV ads and mailers to confuse voters. They will continue to shell out millions, and utilize their considerable political influence, to stop efforts by the housing justice movement in California.
Among the top 10 contributors to the three No on 10 committees, six are publicly-traded real estate investment trusts. One is a powerful lobbying group: California Association of Realtors. And four billionaires are attached to No on 10: Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, Equity Residential Co-Founder Sam Zell, Essex Property Trust Chairman and Founder George M. Marcus, and L.A. developer Geoffrey Palmer. They spent tens of millions to keep the status quo of sky-high rents and rampant displacement and homelessness.
Top 10 Contributors to No on 10:
- $8,966,200: Essex Property Trust/George M. Marcus (Billionaire Marcus contributed $2,350,000 as an individual. Essex Property Trust, an REIT that Marcus founded, shelled out $6,616,200.)
- $8,000,000: California Association of Realtors
- $7,459,078: Blackstone Group/Invitation Homes (Invitation Homes, which contributed $1,286,250, is a subsidiary of Blackstone. Both companies are REITs.)
- $5,224,900: Equity Residential (REIT)
- $4,761,840: Michael K. Hayde, CEO of Western National Group
- $4,206,100: AvalonBay Communities (REIT)
- $2,185,500: Prometheus Real Estate Group
- $2,000,000: Billionaire Geoffrey Palmer
- $1,244,925: UDR, Inc. (REIT)
- $1,114,900: Spieker Companies
Spieker Companies, a prominent landlord based in Palo Alto, and Prometheus Real Estate Group, one of the biggest landlords in the Bay Area, routinely engage in anti-rent control battles in Northern California. Western National Group owns or manages more than 150 apartment complexes in California and Arizona. Palmer owns or manages more than 10,000 apartments in Southern California.
Together, these corporate landlords delivered campaign contributions totaling $45,163,443. That’s roughly 58 percent of all No on 10 campaign cash. To stop rent control and other tenant protections in the future, they will, without hesitation, spend even more.