Whose Side is Gavin Newsom On? Renters or Big Real Estate?

Housing Is A Human Right
3 min readAug 16, 2023
California Gov. Gavin Newsom

With the Justice for Renters Act on the California ballot in 2024, the big question will be whose side is Gov. Gavin Newsom on? Renters or Big Real Estate? In 2020, Newsom chose to not only align himself with corporate landlords who wanted to stop a pro-rent control initiative, but to also campaign on their behalf. Will he stand with the billionaires again?

These are important questions for Newsom to consider. The mainstream media is endlessly speculating that he may run for president in 2024 or 2028, and he still has two more years as governor in California. Any wrong moves now by campaigning for such corporate landlords as Essex Property Trust and Equity Residential, who are mired in the RealPage Scandal, will impact his presidential campaign — middle- and working-class voters, who are drowning under wildly inflated rents charged by Big Real Estate, will be furious with Newsom.

In 2020, Housing Is A Human Right and its parent organization, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, spearheaded a California ballot measure, known as Proposition 21, to reform statewide rent control restrictions. The California Apartment Association and corporate landlords such as Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, and AvalonBay Communities spent nearly $100 million to kill the initiative through a massive, and deceptive, TV ad and social media campaign.

One of the featured stars of Big Real Estate’s No on Prop 21 push was Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom even joined in with No on Prop 21’s lies by saying a bill he signed into law in 2019 ushered in statewide rent control. In fact, the legislation, known as AB 1482, was an anti-rent gouging law that allowed for a whopping 10 percent rent increase. That’s not rent control.

In addition, in 2022, UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that the law wasn’t protecting renters and needed major reforms. “60 percent of repeat rental listings posted in the spring of 2022 had an annual price increase above the corresponding rent cap” as laid out by AB 1482, a Terner Center study noted. Again, that’s not rent control.

Now Newsom is facing a rent control movement that’s only gaining momentum in California and other states. Recently, prominent academics and economists urged President Joe Biden to establish rent control to regulate rents in buildings with government-backed mortgages.

That follows key studies by experts at the University of Southern California, UCLA, and UC Berkeley that found rent control is an effective tool to stabilize the housing affordability crisis and prevent people from falling into homelessness.

Housing Is A Human Right has also pointed out that rent control is the only way to rein in the runaway greed and predatory practices of corporate landlords, protecting the poor and middle- and working-class Californians.

In fact, protecting the poor and middle and working class through rent control is a time-honored tradition that’s as American as apple pie. Will Newsom go against that?

Housing Is A Human Right and AIDS Healthcare Foundation have now successfully placed the Justice for Renters Act on the 2024 California ballot. The initiative expands rent control in the state, allowing local officials to pass updated rent regulations. Already, a broad coalition of housing justice groups, social justice organizations, labor unions, and civic leaders have endorsed the Justice for Renters Act.

But where will Gov. Gavin Newsom stand? Will he go against the housing justice and social justice organizations, unions, and civic leaders such as labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta? Or will he once again stand shoulder to shoulder with billionaire corporate landlords? If he stands with Big Real Estate, unions, activists, and middle- and working-class voters will never forget — and his presidential hopes will likely be dashed.

More importantly, reining in Big Real Estate through rent control is the right thing to do. Without it, the poor and middle and working class will face the serious prospect of homelessness — a life-threatening situation that Newsom could have stopped. Californians, and Americans across the country, will be watching closely to see who Newsom decides to stand with.

Patrick Range McDonald, the author of this article, is the award-winning advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.

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Housing Is A Human Right

Housing Is A Human Right is the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. We fight for what’s right.