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Rent control campaign increases funds sixfold in one day [Update]

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On the other side, property companies pour millions into beating Proposition 10

SF Victorians lined up on the street. Photo by Jessica Bauman

Update: Last Friday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) announced a $10 million donation to the primary yes on Proposition 10 campaign, almost five times as much money as the Coalition for Affordable Housing had previously raised all year.

In a press release, AHF President Michael Weinstein said, “We know we will be significantly outspent by the opposition, backed by deep-pocketed developers and investors who continue to wreak havoc in the housing markets,” attempting to frame the anti-Proposition 10 campaign—which is almost entirely funded by property companies—as greedy speculators.

The $10 million boost, which isn’t yet reflected in the Secretary of State’s public financial reports because it’s too recent, still leaves CFAH considerably lagging behind its competition, which has raised more than twice as much.

To date almost all of the publicly disclosed contributions to CFAH’s now $12.5 million war chest have come from AHF.

According to figures released by the California Secretary of State’s office, groups opposing Proposition 10—which could greatly expand rent control in California cities—have out-fundraised supporters by a margin of more than eight to one, with wealthy property companies pouring tens of millions of dollars into the no campaign.

If passed in November, Proposition 10 will repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, which greatly curtails a city’s authority to place rent-control limitations on housing stock. In San Francisco, for example, no homes built after 1979 are subject to rent control.

Overthrowing Costa-Hawkins would allow individual cities to potentially expand rent-control measures. But first it has to pass at the ballot box, and campaigns for and against the proposition are gearing up for an exhausting months long, multi-million dollar campaign.

According to the state, as of August 1 the principal lobby in favor of Proposition 10, the Coalition For Affordable Housing [CFAH], has raised just over $2.5 million.

And opposition groups who want to preserve Costa-Hawkins have altogether collected a total of more than $20.6 million,

That total represents a combination of four different “No On 10” campaigns, the largest of them being Californians For Responsible Housing [CFRH], controlling more than 75 percent of the assets.

As the San Francisco Chronicle points out, $3.8 million of that comes from just one property company, Irvine-based Western National Group, while San Mateo-based Essex is behind an additional $2.4 million.

Essex Vice President John Eudy even stumped for the anti-Proposition 10 initiative at a San Francisco debate last week, arguing that Costa-Hawkins needs reform and adjustment but not repeal.

Other big contributors to CFRH include Newport Beach-based AvalonBay communities ($659,000), San Mateo-based Prometheus Real Estate Group ($385,000), and Chicago-based Equity Residential, which has a big stake California housing despite being based out of state ($1.7 million).

Photo by Simon Poon

On the other hand, virtually all of the contributions to the pro-Proposition 10 CFAH campaign come from the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is a primary partner in CFAH along with the tenant rights groups ACCE and Eviction Defense Network.

Other contributors include the California Nurses Association ($50,000) and the University of California’s largest employee union ($60,000).

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation was founded in 1987, originally called the AIDS Hospice Foundation.

The non-profit has been active in housing development and politics for years, with a stated goal to “demonstrate to politicians, government officials ,and bureaucrats as well as like-minded community groups and housing advocates that our most vulnerable citizens [...] can be helped or placed into clean and safe housing without lengthly delays.”

Despite the marked imbalance of balance sheets, CFAH told the Chronicle that it’s confident it will have the resources for a successful campaign.