Housing Is A Human Right corporate landlords anti-rent control California

Corporate Landlords Are Secretly Funneling Millions to Anti-Rent Control Campaigns in California

In News by Patrick Range McDonald

Real estate companies have never been wild about transparency, routinely hiding behind LPs and LLCs so the public doesn’t know who owns a property. Corporate landlords are now taking that shadiness to another level, secretly funneling millions to an anti-rent control campaign and to another political committee to stop AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s work on rent control. Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, and AvalonBay Communities – three of the largest corporate landlords in the United States – are the biggest contributors involved in this unfolding shell game.

This year, a statewide coalition of housing justice organizations, social justice groups, labor unions, and civic leaders are working to pass the Justice for Renters Act, the November ballot measure that expands rent control in California. AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the parent organization of Housing Is A Human Right, is leading that pro-tenant, pro-affordable housing campaign.

Big Real Estate is fighting back with an anti-tenant, anti-rent control committee to stop the Justice for Renters Act: Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association. 

The CAA, whose board of directors is made up of heavy-duty real estate executives, is a powerful front group for corporate landlords that aggressively opposes tenant protections throughout California. To do the real estate industry’s dirty work, the CAA operates several political action committees that deliver campaign cash to local and state politicians in California and fund various anti-tenant efforts.

In 2021, a Housing Is A Human Right special report exposed the California Apartment Association’s political action committees and the corporate landlords that fund them, including the non-transparent shell game that the CAA carries out for the real estate industry. In response to the Justice for Renters Act, the CAA and Big Real Estate are trying to avoid public scrutiny and deceive Californians once again.

Since May 2023, numerous corporate landlords, including Essex Property Trust, AvalonBay Communities, and Equity Residential, have sent big checks to the California Apartment Association Issues Committee. The California Apartment Association then moves that cash to Californians for Responsible Housing – so when reporters and the public look at state campaign filings, the only funder for Californians for Responsible Housing appears to be the CAA Issues Committee.

To date, the CAA Issues Committee, using corporate landlord money, has delivered $1 million to Californians for Responsible Housing, according to state filings. That cash has been spent to hire campaign consultants DeBoo Communications and Forward Observer, which was founded by longtime Republican operative Joe Rodota

Corporate landlords are also financing a dangerous ballot measure effort, called “Protect Patients Now,” that singles out AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its work on rent control – a devious effort that, if successful, can be duplicated by other industries to silence labor unions and advocacy groups in California. 

To date, the CAA Issues Committee, once again using corporate landlord money, has funneled a whopping $9.6 million to Protect Patients Now sponsored by the California Apartment Association, according to state filings. 

The largest contributors to the CAA Issues Committee are Essex Property Trust ($3.4 million), Equity Residential ($1.6 million), and AvalonBay Communities ($1.4 million). Other top donors include corporate landlords R & V Management ($1.3 million) and UDR ($1 million).

With that money, Protect Patients Now sponsored by the California Apartment Association has hired consultants Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates; Bearstar Strategies; DeBoo Communications; JSQ Group; The Monaco Group; Click Strategies; The Messina Group; and Forward Observer. Already, those consultants are spreading lies about AIDS Healthcare Foundation and rent control, which Housing Is A Human Right detailed in a recent Capitol Weekly op-ed

In an article last year, Housing Is A Human Right also exposed the Democratic consultants hired by corporate landlords and the California Apartment Association, including Nathan Click, Ace Smith, and Jim DeBoo.

With an army of big-time consultants on their payroll, corporate landlords and the California Apartment Association are showing a fierce determination to kill the Justice for Renters Act and AHF’s pro-tenant, pro-rent control work. If successful, corporate landlords, many of whom are mired in the ongoing RealPage Scandal, will continue to charge wildly inflated rents, worsening the housing affordability and homelessness crises. A recent study by UC San Francisco found that sky-high rents are fueling homelessness in California.

Corporate landlords and the California Apartment Association are hoping that their non-transparent shell game will ultimately win the day, but California voters have a unique opportunity to successfully fight back – by passing the Justice for Renters Act in November.

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