The real estate industry’s multi-million-dollar campaign continues to raise enormous sums to stop Proposition 21. So far, four No on Prop 21 committees have raked in a shocking $43.6 million. Equity Residential, co-founded by billionaire Sam Zell (pictured above), has shelled out $3.7 million.
Prop 21 is the November ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases, reins in corporate landlord greed, and prevents homelessness. Top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that sensible rent limits are key for stabilizing California’s housing affordability crisis. It’s why U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the California Democratic Party, the Los Angeles Times, among many others, have thrown their full support behind Prop 21.
To stop Prop 21, the real estate industry has formed four No on 21 committees: Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association, the lead No on 21 committee; Californians to Protect Affordable Housing; Californians for Affordable Housing sponsored by the California Rental Housing Association; and the Issues PAC of Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles – No on 21.
In addition, real estate titans such as Blackstone Group, billionaire landlord Geoffrey Palmer, and Western National Group CEO Michael Hayde have contributed $22,693,470 to the California Business Roundtable Issues PAC, which has so far funneled $5.6 million to Californians to Protect Affordable Housing. The Issues PAC is also contributing to the No on Prop 15 campaign.
Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest corporate landlords and led by billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, has shelled out $7,006,000 to the Roundtable Issues PAC; Palmer has delivered $2,075,000; and Hayde has contributed $4,560,000.
The Yes on 21 campaign recently filed a formal complaint with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, charging that Californians to Protect Affordable Housing and Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association have violated the Political Reform Act by engaging in money laundering activities.
The millions flowing into the four No on 21 committees shows beyond any doubt that Big Real Estate is calling shots for the No on Prop 21 campaign — a secretive “executive committee” made up of top real estate executives is making the decisions for Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association. Controversial No on 21 spokesman Steve Maviglio, a longtime mercenary for corporate America, works for Californians for Responsible Housing.
Among the top 10 contributors to Californians for Responsible Housing, five are publicly traded real estate investment trusts: Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities, UDR, and Apartment Investment and Management Company (AIMCO).
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. Prometheus Real Estate Group: $1,078,200
7. Jackson Square Properties LLC: $1,061,600
8. Apartment Investment and Management Company (AIMCO): $1,036,900
9. Californians for Responsible Housing – General Purpose Committee: $1,012,219
10. Sequoia Equities: $956,860
With this kind of major cash going to No on Prop 21, it’s clear that corporate landlords are deeply concerned that Prop 21, which puts limits on sky-high rent increases, will impact their profits. It’s the main motive behind Big Real Estate’s aggressive push to stop Prop 21.
In the 2010s, according to Zillow, U.S. renters paid a staggering $4.5 TRILLION to landlords.
“On Dec. 1,” Zillow reported last year, “the nation’s renters didn’t just make their last rent payment of the year – their landlords also collected their last rent payment of what was a very lucrative decade. All-in-all, U.S. renters paid roughly $4.5 trillion in rent during the 2010s, capped off with $512 billion in 2019 alone.”
California landlords were especially raking in massive profits.
Zillow found that in 2019 alone, Los Angeles renters paid a shocking $39.2 billion to landlords. San Francisco renters shelled out $16.4 billion. San Diego renters forked over $10.3 billion. Riverside renters wrote checks totaling $7.4 billion. San Jose renters paid $6.5 billion. Sacramento renters delivered $4.8 billion to landlords. Enormous amounts paid by seniors living on fixed incomes, working-class families, recent college students, and teachers and nurses.
Proposition 21 will rein in that corporate landlord greed.
Patrick Range McDonald is the award-winning advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.