Big Real Estate continues to shell out major cash to political committees that oppose the Rental Affordability Act, the November ballot measure that expands rent control in California. Equity Residential and Essex Property Trust, two of the largest corporate landlords in the U.S., are among the top contributors. Invitation Homes, led by CEO Dallas Tanner (pictured above), is also a prominent contributor.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered mass unemployment and lost wages throughout California, with millions of renters struggling to pay sky-high rents. Regardless, the campaign contributions signal that corporate landlords are determined to maintain the ability to charge excessive rents, no matter who suffers the consequences.
According to state filings, Big Real Estate has raised a total of $14,014,138 for three political committees that oppose the Rental Affordability Act: Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association, Californians for Responsible Housing – General Purpose Committee, and Californians for Affordable Housing sponsored by the California Rental Housing Association. The CAA-backed committee is the most prominent of the three.
The California Apartment Association, led by CEO Tom Bannon and Board President Barry Altshuler, a top executive at Equity Residential, is the most powerful landlord lobbying group in the state. The CAA has a long history of aggressively opposing rent control and other tenants protections.
The totals below include all contributions to the three anti-rent control committees.
Top 10 Contributors Opposing Rental Affordability Act:
- Essex Property Trust, led by CEO Mike Schall (includes $223,814 in contributions from Essex Property Trust founder George Marcus): $3,879,544
- Equity Residential, led by co-founder Sam Zell and vice-president and California Apartment Association board president Barry Altshuler: $2,922,002
- Californians for Responsible Housing – General Purpose Committee (contributions given to Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by California Apartment Association): $1,012,219
- Prometheus Real Estate Group, led by CEO Jackie Safier: $935,497
- UDR, led by CEO Tom Toomey: $891,801
- AvalonBay Communities, led by CEO Tim Naughton: $830,103
- Jackson Square Properties and JSP managing partner Tom Coates: $734,851
- Invitation Homes, led by CEO Dallas Tanner: $619,340
- R & V Management Corporation, led by CEO Gerry Ranglas: $550,000
- General Investment & Development (GID), led by chairman W. Gardner Wallace: $472,625
Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, UDR, AvalonBay Communities, and Invitation Homes are publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), also known as Wall Street landlords.
Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, UDR, AvalonBay Communities, and GID are among the top 50 largest apartment owners in the United States. Real estate industry insiders are worried that if California voters pass the Rental Affordability Act and expand rent control, that other states will follow, preventing corporate landlords from continuing to charge outsized rents.
Housing activists have said that corporate landlords’ excessive rents have driven the housing affordability crisis. With corporate landlords setting the standard for the rental housing market, many smaller, or “mom-and-pop,” landlords have followed suit and also charge top-dollar rents. During the 2010s, according to Zillow, U.S. renters paid a staggering $4.5 trillion in rent.
Housing Is A Human Right and AIDS Healthcare Foundation are addressing the unfair, broken housing market by spearheading the Rental Affordability Act, which allows communities to expand rent control. Currently, a state law, known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, places severe restrictions on local rent control policies. At a time when middle- and working-class renters desperately need relief, the RAA would reform Costa-Hawkins.