Since last month, Big Real Estate has nearly doubled its millions in campaign contributions to stop Proposition 21. Leading the charge, Essex Property Trust, helmed by CEO Mike Schall (pictured above), is the top contributor to the No on 21 campaign, shelling out $4.7 million. Even during a pandemic, the real estate industry continues its hard drive to keep charging sky-high, unfair rents.
Proposition 21 is the November ballot measure that allows communities to put sensible limits on excessive rents. The initiative is supported by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, Congresswoman Maxine Water, and the California Democratic Party, among many others. Middle- and working-class Californians have been getting slammed for years by the housing affordability crisis — and many renters are struggling even more to make ends meet because of the financial devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Big Real Estate is unmoved.
Four No on 21 campaign committees have now raked in a total of $31,320,159.40. Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association, the leading No on 21 committee, has raised the bulk of that: $25,696,561. Californians for Responsible Housing – General Purpose Committee has collected $3,099,823; Californians to Protect Affordable Housing has raked in $2,461,916.40; and Californians for Affordable Housing sponsored by the California Rental Housing Association has raised $61,859.
The four committees are expected to collect millions more to fund a statewide TV ad blitz.
Leading the No on 21 charge is an “executive committee” made up of Big Real Estate executives, who are calling the shots for Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association (CAA). Recently revealed by Housing Is A Human Right, the once secretive executive committee is co-chaired by Essex Property Trust executive and CAA board member John Eudy, Equity Residential executive and CAA board president Barry Altshuler, and Prometheus Real Estate Group executive and CAA board member John Millham. CAA CEO Tom Bannon is also a member.
The California Apartment Association, the landlord lobbying powerhouse that’s aggressively fought renter protections throughout the state for years, is clearly the key player in trying to kill Proposition 21.
Among the top 10 contributors to Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association, six are publicly traded real estate investment trusts: Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities, UDR, Apartment Investment and Management Company (AIMCO), and Invitation Homes. Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, and AvalonBay Communities rank in the top 10 of the largest apartment owners in the U.S.
Top 10 Contributors to Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association
1. Essex Property Trust: $4,750,000
2. Equity Residential: $3,717,600
3. AvalonBay Communities: $2,929,500
4. UDR: $1,262,521
5. R & V Management Corporation: $1,100,000
6. Apartment Investment and Management Company: $1,036,900
7. Californians for Responsible Housing – General Purpose Committee: $1,012,219.14
8. Sequoia Equities: $783,980
8. Prometheus Real Estate Group: $666,920
9. Invitation Homes: $619,340
10. General Investment and Development (GID): $616,875
The No on 21 campaign is trying to frame Proposition 21 as the wrong solution to the housing affordability crisis, even though top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that putting sensible limits on excessive rent increases is a crucial tool to stabilize the crisis.
“The housing crisis requires a range of strategies,” explained University of Southern California Professor Manuel Pastor, co-author of the USC Dornsife’s Rent Matters report, “[and] moderate rent regulation is a useful tool to be nested in broader strategy. It has fewer damaging effects than are often imagined, it can address economic pain, and it can promote housing stability. And housing stability matters because it is associated with physical, social, and psychological well-being; higher educational achievement by the young; and benefits for people of color.”
Yet, more importantly, the thrust of Big Real Estate’s opposition to Proposition 21 has nothing to do with finding solutions for the housing affordability crisis — Essex Property Trust and the rest are not shelling out millions as some kind of altruistic effort. What Big Real Estate is fighting for is the ability to keep raking in billions in profits — made off the backs of California renters — by charging sky-high rents.
To paraphrase an old saying, it’s the profits, stupid.
The No on 21 campaign will spend tens of millions on TV ads to try to steer voters away from that hard fact.