Perhaps in an effort to fly under the radar, corporate landlords such as Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, and AvalonBay Communities have recently shelled out even more millions in campaign contributions to No on Prop 21: Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association. The five No on Prop 21 campaign committees have now raised a staggering total of $98.1 million, according to state filings.
California Apartment Association CEO Tom Bannon (pictured above, left) and Essex Property Trust CE0 Mike Schall (also pictured above) were two of the leading executives behind Big Real Estate’s multi-million-dollar campaign to stop Proposition 21 in 2020.
Prop 21, spearheaded by AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Housing Is A Human Right, aimed to reform statewide restrictions on rent control and allow localities to expand rent control policies. More than 340 housing justice groups, social justice organizations, labor unions, and political leaders endorsed Prop 21, including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Yet many of the largest corporate landlords in the nation delivered tens of millions in contributions to stop the California ballot measure, paying for a massive, and deceitful, TV ad campaign that tricked and confused voters. As a result, Prop 21 lost in November. Among the five No on Prop 21 campaign committees, Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association raised, by far, the most money.
With the new contributions in December, the CAA-sponsored committee has now raked in a whopping $86,232,244, according to state filings. Corporate landlords Essex Property Trust, AvalonBay Communities, Equity Residential, UDR, and Prometheus Real Estate Group were among the largest contributors. In total, between December 18 and 28, No on Prop 21: Californians for Responsible Housing received $11.9 million in campaign cash.
On December 23, AvalonBay Communities, a real estate investment trust based in Virginia, contributed $4.1 million to No on Prop 21: Californians for Responsible Housing, shelling out a grand total of $12,892,490 to No on Prop 21. On December 22, Essex Property Trust, a real estate investment trust based in San Mateo, delivered $2.3 million, increasing its grand total to $17,356,884. On December 18, real estate investment trusts Equity Residential and UDR shelled out $1.7 million and $1.1 million, respectively — raising their grand totals to $12,771,855 and $3,708,571. Also on December 18, Prometheus Real Estate Group, one of the largest corporate landlords in the Bay Area, handed over more than $963,000 to No on Prop 21: Californians for Responsible Housing, bringing its grand total to $4,098,469.
Corporate landlords Tod Spieker, Sares Regis Operating Company, and General Investment & Development also delivered major checks to the CAA-sponsored committee in December.
Among the other four No on Prop 21 campaign committees, Californians to Protect Affordable Housing raised $10,578,691; Issues PAC of Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles – No on 21 collected $620,735; Multi-County Property Rights PAC, No on Proposition 21, sponsored by the Apartment Association of Orange County raked in $466,416; and Californians for Affordable Housing sponsored by the California Rental Housing Association hauled in $221,651. In total, the five No on Prop 21 committees raised $98,119,737.
In 2018, the real estate industry shelled out $77.3 million to stop Proposition 10. In all, Big Real Estate spent a shocking $175.4 million to kill Prop 10 and Prop 21.
Activists have long said that corporate landlords opposed Prop 21 because they were desperate to protect their billions in revenue generated from unregulated, sky-high rents, which has fueled California’s housing affordability crisis. As Californians continue to struggle with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants, who can’t pay wildly inflated rents, are now facing the possibility of an eviction tsunami. Housing Is A Human Right is currently advocating for the use of the state’s budget surplus to provide billions in renter relief, which will also benefit small landlords.