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.
California is at the epicenter of houselessness crisis in the United States. Over half of the nation’s unsheltered people and a quarter of all unhoused people live in California, despite the fact that California residents make up only 12% of the nation’s population. This is largely due to the state’s skyrocketing housing costs, lack of affordable housing, and stagnating wages. The burdens of California’s affordable housing shortage and resulting houselessness crisis raise grave humanitarian concerns and fall disproportionately on Black and Brown residents.
As this report demonstrates, enshrining a fundamental right to housing in the California Constitution is a necessary step to effectively address the growing housing crisis at the state level. Guaranteeing every person the right to housing provides an important government obligation and legal tool to ensure that Californians have access to affordable and adequate housing. This rights-based approach is supported by a rich body of international human rights law and will bolster California’s existing Housing First policy, based on decades of empirical evidence that houselessness is most effectively remedied by access to permanent and stable housing, with minimal requirements for entry.
BLACKSTONE COMES TO COLLECT: How America’s Largest Landlord and Wall Street’s Highest Paid CEO Are Jacking Up Rents and Ramping Up Evictions
The Private Equity Stakeholder Project (PESP) and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) have released a new report that documents rent hikes and increased evictions by the private equity firm The Blackstone Group. Blackstone now owns and manages over 300,000 units of rental housing in the U.S., making it the largest landlord in the U.S.
In 2021, Blackstone bought 5,600 housing units in San Diego County where rents had been affordable to lower income tenants. As units in San Diego County become vacant, Blackstone has raised rents in some units 43% higher than it was just two years ago.
Blackstone also has a history of spending millions of dollars to oppose rent control in California. The company gave over $7 million in 2018 and more than $7 million in 2020 to fight against the ballot initiatives.
Blackstone founder and CEO Stephen Schwartzman received $1.3 billion in compensation last year.
2022 was a year full of gains for ACCE! We deepened our organizing programs and experiments, we built out our training programs and critical discussions about the systems and actors we are up against, we sharpened our understanding of what we are called to do, we expanded our base and our staff team, and we WON A LOT for our people.
No matter which way we look at it, 2021 was a big year that marked big changes for our country and for ACCE Institute. We spent the year fighting and winning major victories for California’s tenants, homeowners, and undocumented residents. From winning full rent forgiveness to keeping thousands of families in their homes through local and state tenant protections, we worked hard to realize our vision for justice in California.