California’s grassroots movement that aims to expand rent control through a statewide ballot measure has reached a major milestone: the initiative, known as the Rental Affordability Act (RAA), has received more than 1,200 individual campaign contributions. The significant accomplishment shows that Californians are standing up to Big Real Estate and rallying behind rent control.
In contrast, the committee sponsored by the California Apartment Association that opposes the RAA has raised the bulk of its money only through a handful of corporate landlords, including AvalonBay Communities, Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, UDR, GID, and Invitations Homes.
The rent control ballot measure has gained increasing urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic, as millions of Californians already struggling with unfair, sky-high rents have now lost work and income in the nation’s shuttered economy.
In a clear indication that a groundswell of a grassroots housing revolution has begun, more than three-quarters of the 1,219 donations were made before March 19 — the day Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide “stay at home” order, which sidelined many workers and raised the stakes, and awareness about, the importance of rent control as a critical tool for housing stability.
“The Rental Affordability Act is shaping up to be a case of the people versus Big Real Estate with thousands of small individual donors desperately in need of rent control as a fair means to maintain their housing—even more so during and after the COVID-19 pandemic—going against deep-pocketed billionaires,” says Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the organization sponsoring the initiative.
He adds, “Even before the pandemic struck, housing affordability and homelessness were the most pressing social justice and public health emergencies in our time, especially in California.”
Housing Is A Human Right, the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is a leading sponsor of the RAA. The measure has the endorsement of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and a suite of California’s most well-regarded tenant advocacy and social justice organizations, including the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Eviction Defense Network.
When passed, the Rental Affordability Act will remove current restrictions in state law, giving cities and counties the power to implement and expand rent control policies that limit how much rents can increase each year. It would allow local communities to:
- Expand rent control to more buildings while exempting newly constructed buildings.
- Exempt single-family homeowners who own up to two homes.
- Allow limits on rent increases when a new renter moves in.
“For the past few months, our movement has been rallying a broad, statewide grassroots coalition of working-class renters and their advocates. We continue to do so every day in innovative online outreach efforts, as so many of us remain in stay-at-home mode,” says René Christian Moya, Housing Is A Human Right and Rental Affordability Act Campaign Director.
He adds, “There is no doubt that the national real estate industry will still spend untold millions to try and derail the Rental Affordability Act here in California. We look forward to the fight ahead, and to passing the Rental Affordability Act come November.”