California’s rent control ballot measure triggers $24M fundraising battle


Elijah Chiland


And the money keeps coming

Real estate investors and other opponents of a ballot measure that would allow California cities to expand rent control have raised more than $21 million since the beginning of the year—far outpacing supporters.

But a massive donation from the measure’s primary backer, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, could help even the score.

Last week, AHF, which has poured tens of millions of dollars into campaign financing for ballot initiatives in recent years, announced that it would contribute $10 million to the campaign to support the measure. That nearly quintuples the $2.5 million raised by supporters to this point.

Proposition 10, which would repeal the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, was proposed by tenant advocacy groups and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation as a salve to renters amid a statewide affordable housing crisis. It would give cities the ability to apply rent control restrictions to newer buildings, and to enforce caps on rent increases even after tenants move out.

Supporters say this would stabilize rental costs for many residents and give local leaders new tools to preserve lower-cost housing options. Critics say it could scare off developers, worsening the state’s housing shortage.

So far, critics appear to have deeper pockets to draw from. Hundreds of donors have contributed to campaigns against the measure, but a handful of donors have accounted for a hefty chunk of the total amount raised.

Western National Group, a real estate investment firm from Irvine, has shelled out over $3.7 million. Essex Property Trust, a San Mateo-based investor, has contributed over $2.4 million. Equity Residential, a real estate trust from Chicago, has donated more than $1.7 million.

It’s not just investors fighting the measure. The California Association of Realtors has tacked on an additional $1.5 million.

No individual opponent has come close to matching AHF’s financial commitment. Prior to the latest $10 million contribution, the foundation had already donated close to $2.3 million to the campaign supporting Proposition 10.

Still, AHF president Michael Weinstein acknowledged in a press release Friday that it’s unlikely supporters of Proposition 10 will match the opposition in terms of total dollars raised.

“We know we will be significantly outspent by the opposition,” said Weinstein. “The California dream is dying, and only the voters can save it in November.”

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