From Housing Providers to Drivers of Homelessness: How the California Apartment Association’s Wall Street Leadership Spent Nearly a Quarter Billion Dollars to Block Housing Solutions

Californians consistently identify high housing costs and addressing homelessness as two of the top issues they want to see lawmakers address. Numerous reports and studies have documented the problems and outlined consensus strategies and solutions. However, to date, state and local governments have failed to pass policies or make investments commensurate with the scale of the state’s housing needs. Why are policymakers failing to act? One of the major reasons is the powerful and deep-pocketed corporate real estate lobby led by the California Apartment Association (CAA). While the CAA often claims to represent their 13,000 members, the CAA’s agenda primarily serves their leadership who are some of the country’s largest Wall Street corporate landlords. The business model of these mega corporate landlords is predicated on increasing profits at all costs by raising rents, neglecting maintenance, and evicting frequently. Since 2017, the CAA has dramatically increased its spending to oppose or repeal critical housing justice solutions. Over the past three legislative sessions – 2017/2018; 2019/2020; and 2021/2022 (based on Secretary of State data accessed on 02/01/2023) – the CAA, with the help of its corporate real estate investor members and other toxic industries, has spent at least $233 million dollars ($233,827,386) in political contributions and lobbying. Through their spreading of cash, the CAA  has furthered its Wall Street agenda, making it even harder for all of us to find stability and opportunity while calling California home.

What you need to know::

  • CAA spent nearly $7 million in lobbying the governor, his administration and state legislature, and made over $140 million in contributions to impact state & local candidate races or ballot measures;
  • Pooled and coordinated additional political contributions with other special interests like Big Oil (including Chevron); Prison Guard Unions; Private Utility Corporations (PG&E); and Big Tobacco (Phillip Morris), collectively totaling over $86 million from the top 25 of these blended committees;
  • Several of the largest Wall St. corporate landlords in the country are on the CAA board. Collectively, CAA board Wall Street members own a minimum of 445,422 homes in California, nearly 10% of all renter-occupied housing units in the state;
  • 6 mega corporate landlords (4 of them are board members) account for 50% ($70 million) of the political contributions of its committees - meaning;
  • CAA donated, in 2022, to 84 of 120 state legislators (70%) including 78% of the state assembly (63);
  • CAA met with the governor’s office 16 of the last 24 quarters (67%). Eight of those meetings were with Governor Newsom himself.
  • Opposed consumer protections for renters including at least 8 local efforts at rent stabilization, and protections against unjust evictions related to COVID impact;
  • Spent the majority of $121 million between 2018-2020 to defeat two statewide tenant protection ballot measures by spreading lies and gaslighting California voters; and,
  • Solidified support for their political agenda from California’s Republican assembly members, but depends on moderate Democrats to maintain the unfair housing crisis status quo.

Read the full report here. This report was written and researched by a coalition of organizations dedicated to addressing the affordable housing and homelessness crisis through renter protections, and preservation. They include the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Housing Now!, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, PICO California, and Tenants Together.

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