Sat, Jul

Rent Control is Only Way to Rein In Corporate Landlords


HOUSING - Time and again, Californians have seen that rent control is the only way to rein in the predatory business practices of corporate landlords. From the ongoing RealPage Scandal to the “Dirty Deeds” section of The Real Deal magazine, Big Real Estate has shown that it will do anything – and hurt anyone – to make another buck.

This year, a grassroots coalition of housing justice groups, social justice organizations, and labor unions will urge Californians to vote “yes” on a November ballot measure called the Justice for Renters Act, which finally ends statewide restrictions on rent control. Housing Is A Human Right and its parent organization, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, are leading the charge to pass the initiative.

As always, Big Real Estate will be desperate to kill a pro-tenant, pro-rent control measure that stops its unbridled greed.

In 2018 and 2020, corporate landlords and other real estate insiders shelled out a whopping $175.4 million in campaign contributions to stop Proposition 10 and Proposition 21 – even RealPage, the controversial Big Tech firm, got in on the action, delivering $500,000 to kill Prop 21. Those initiatives would have ended statewide rent control restrictions. The California Apartment Association, the front group for corporate landlords, sponsored the No on Prop 10 and No on Prop 21 campaigns.

That mountain of cash was used to finance a massive misinformation campaign, confusing voters and defeating both measures.

Corporate landlords, such as Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, and AvalonBay Communities, have since been embroiled in the high-profile RealPage Scandal – in which they formed a cartel to wildly inflate rents in California and other states using a RealPage software program. Numerous federal lawsuits have been filed by tenants, and the Washington D.C. attorney general recently slapped a lawsuit against RealPage, AvalonBay Communities, Equity Residential, and UDR – a corporate landlord that also contributed millions to stop Prop 10 and Prop 21. 

Predatory business practices are so routine in the real estate industry that The Real Deal, a monthly trade magazine and news site, devotes an entire section, called “Dirty Deeds,” to the latest scandals among landlords, developers, and attorneys. 

In its most recent issue, The Real Deal reported that a New York man pleaded guilty in a $165 million multifamily loan fraud scheme; a former Chicago alderman and a real estate developer were convicted on multiple corruption charges; and a disbarred attorney in New York City pleaded guilty to defrauding real estate clients. That’s only a handful of the real estate industry’s never-ending list of wrongdoings, which are all driven by an insatiable appetite for more millions – no matter the consequences to the rest of us.

Rent control, though, will protect tenants against Big Real Estate’s destructive, greedy ways, which have fueled the housing affordability and homelessness crises in California and other states.

In November, Californians have a simple choice: rein in corporate landlords by voting “yes” on the Justice for Renters Act or allow the real estate industry to continue to run amok, preying upon hard-working tenants. A statewide coalition of community activists, union members, and civic leaders believe the decision is obvious: vote “yes” on the Justice for Renters Act.

Follow Housing Is A Human Right on Facebook and Twitter.

(Patrick Range McDonald, author and journalist, Best Activism Journalism: Los Angeles Press Club, Journalist of the Year: Los Angeles Press Club, Public Service Award: Association of Alternative Newsmedia, and a contributor to CityWatch.)