Rent control is the only way to rein in corporate landlord greed. The California Apartment Association and other Big Real Estate groups try to confuse voters about that hard fact, but it’s clear why they oppose rent regulations. They don’t want anything getting in the way of charging higher and higher rents — no matter the consequences to hard-working tenants.
Between 2010 and 2019, it was a banner decade for landlords, especially corporate landlords that operate in multiple cities in California and across the nation. Zillow, the real estate site, found that tenants in the United States paid landlords a staggering $4.5 trillion in rent.
“On Dec. 1,” Zillow reported in 2019, “the nation’s renters didn’t just make their last rent payment of the year — their landlords also collected their last rent payment of what was a very lucrative decade.”
U.S. renters not only paid landlords $4.5 trillion during the 2010s, but $512 billion in 2019 alone. Zillow noted that $4.5 trillion is higher than the 2018 GDP of Germany ($4 trillion), and $512 billion is larger than the 2018 GDP of Thailand ($505 billion) and just less than Argentina’s ($518 billion).
Astounding sums of money, which corporate landlords use to buy superyachts, a second or third mansion, and private jets. The rest of us, in the meantime, are becoming more and more rent burdened — California has the most rent-burdened tenants in the country, according to the O.C. Register.
Unsurprisingly, numerous California cities showed up in Zillow’s top 35 list of U.S. metro areas where renters paid the most to landlords in 2019. New York City ranked number one, with $56.5 billion. Los Angeles was number two — renters shelled out $39.1 billion to landlords. San Francisco was number three, with $16.4 billion. San Diego ($10.3 billion), Riverside ($7.4 billion), San Jose ($6.5 billion), and Sacramento ($4.8 billion) also appeared in the top 35. No other state had as many cities on Zillow’s list.
It’s all driven by corporate landlords’ insatiable appetite for bigger and bigger profits. Just read Housing Is A Human Right’s special report on billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, whose company spent millions to stop rent control ballot measures in California.
To stop the destructive greed of corporate landlords and other predatory landlords, we must regulate them — through rent control.
Academic heavyweights at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley found that rent control will stabilize the housing affordability crisis and prevent people from falling into homelessness. Zillow, in fact, found that in cities where people spend more than 32 percent of their take-home pay on rent, a spike in homelessness will follow. We can address that by passing rent control.
Rent control is one part of a multi-pronged strategy that policymakers, especially progressive politicians, must carry out to address the housing affordability and homelessness crises. It’s called the “3 Ps”: protect tenants through rent control and other protections; preserve existing affordable housing, not demolish it to make way for luxury housing; and produce more affordable and homeless housing.
The 3 Ps work, helping the people who are getting hit hardest by the housing affordability crisis — the poor and middle and working class — first and foremost.
Patrick Range McDonald, the author of this article, is the award-winning advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.