Behind the scenes, a handful of real estate executives have been guiding the California Apartment Association’s never-ending push to stop any and all renter protections. CAA CEO Tom Bannon is one of them. So is CAA Board President and Equity Residential vice president Barry Altshuler. Another is John Eudy, a CAA board member and former vice president at Essex Property Trust. Eudy, with little fanfare, is now pulling the strings to stop Proposition 21.
Proposition 21 is the November ballot measure that seeks to limit unfair, sky-high rent increases — and bring justice and fairness to California. Housing activists argue that because of the financial devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, renters, more than ever, need protections against rent gouging by predatory landlords. Middle- and working-class Californians have already been struggling to pay sky-rocketing rents, and now the housing affordability crisis has only gotten worse. In fact, a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that rents are unaffordable in every state in the nation due to the pandemic.
For many civic leaders, organizations, and experts, putting limits on excessive rents is a no-brainer. The California Democratic Party has endorsed Prop 21. So has labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Rev. Al Sharpton, former United Nations special rapporteur on the Right to Housing Leilani Farha, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, UNITE HERE! Local 11, the city of Santa Monica, and the list goes on. It’s not surprising. With the COVID-19 pandemic, people need stable, affordable housing to stay safe and healthy.
But that’s where John Eudy and the California Apartment Association come in.
Eudy and the CAA, a Big Real Estate lobbying powerhouse that operates in Sacramento and around the state, are used to having corporate landlords charge renters whatever they want, regardless of the negative impacts on the rest of us. Over the last decade, for example, Los Angeles County tenants shelled out a whopping $345.9 billion in rent. San Francisco tenants paid $141.1 billion. San Diego tenants forked over $86.2 billion. It’s shocking. Essex Property Trust, AvalonBay Communities, Equity Residential, and other corporate landlords have raked in enormous profits — and fueled California’s housing affordability crisis.
Eudy is a board member of the California Apartment Association. For years, he was executive vice president at Essex Property Trust, where he played a major role in building up the company. He retired several months ago, but still looms large within the company and the CAA.
Based in San Mateo, Essex Property Trust is the tenth largest apartment owner in the U.S., with more than 60,000 units and a worth of $25 billion. The corporate landlord has been ruthless in its pursuit for massive profits, made off the backs of hard-working Californians.
In San Mateo, for example, Essex Property Trust bought a 697-unit apartment building that was home to many seniors. Essex Property Trust proceeded to raise rents “aggressively,” the East Bay Times reported, “prompting an exodus that included fixed-income senior citizens who lived there for decades.” The San Francisco Examiner noted that the corporate landlord, in many cases, jacked up rents by as much as $400 per month — an overwhelming annual hike of $4,800.
At another apartment building, in Fremont, tenants sued Essex Property Trust, charging that the corporate landlord improperly increased rents and allowed bad living conditions to boost profits. Essex Property Trust agreed to a settlement in 2016.
It’s all a part of Eudy’s legacy as a top executive at Essex Property Trust.
Then there’s the California Apartment Association. Under Eudy’s leadership as a board member, the CAA has been a zealous opponent of local and state renter protections. From arguing against a temporary rent freeze in Santa Ana during the COVID-19 pandemic to forcing the El Cerrito City Council to repeal renter protections to raising tens of millions to stop Proposition 10 (the 2018 California ballot measure sought to expand local rent control policies), the CAA has been relentless in protecting corporate landlords’ ability to charge unfair, sky-high rents.
Eudy and the CAA are now leading the charge to stop Proposition 21. The CAA sponsors an anti-Prop 21 campaign committee called Californians for Responsible Housing. So far, it has raised $16.6 million. Essex Property Trust is the largest contributor, shelling out $2.8 million. Equity Residential and AvalonBay Communities, both of which are also among the top apartment owners in the nation, have delivered $2.2 million and $1.7 million, respectively.
Housing activists expect Essex Property Trust and other corporate landlords to shell out even more millions to the California Apartment Association, paying for a massive TV ad campaign that will attempt to trick, confuse, and scare voters into opposing Proposition 21. Eudy, Tom Bannon, and Barry Altshuler will do anything to maintain a broken status quo that’s allowed them to charge obscenely high rents.
John Eudy doesn’t want California voters to know who is or what he’s up to. But when voters see TV ads this fall that try to smear Prop 21, they should think of him. His job has been, and still is, to pump up profits at any cost. He doesn’t care about solving the housing affordability crisis or the need to keep people in their homes during a pandemic. Eudy only wants Essex Property Trust to make more billions, no matter the human cost.