Rent con­trol in Cal­i­for­nia costliest fight on ’18 bal­lot

The ef­fort is be­ing funded by the qui­etly pow­er­ful AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion.

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - NATION & WORLD - BY SOPHIA BOLLAG

SACRA­MENTO, Calif. — A Los An­ge­les­based health care non­profit known for fund­ing con­tro­ver­sial bal­lot mea­sures is wag­ing an ex­pen­sive bat­tle with the real es­tate in­dus­try over rent con­trol in Cal­i­for­nia.

The AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion has poured more than $12 mil­lion into a Novem­ber ini­tia­tive it’s spear­head­ing to let cities and coun­ties reg­u­late ren­tal fees in build­ings that state law cur­rently shields from such con­trol.

A $10 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion the foun­da­tion re­ported Wed­nes­day made the ini­tia­tive the most ex­pen­sive on the 2018 bal­lot so far.

Started in 1987 to pro­vide hos­pice care to AIDS pa­tients, the AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion has grown into a global health care or­ga­ni­za­tion sim­i­lar in size to Planned Par­ent­hood. The group also has waded into pol­i­tics, bankrolling mea­sures rang­ing from pre­scrip­tion drug pric­ing to hous­ing pol­icy, as well as lob­by­ing at the state and fed­eral lev­els.

Sup­port­ers say the rent con­trol mea­sure will pro­tect low-in­come peo­ple from be­ing priced out of their homes, while op­po­nents ar­gue it will de­crease hous­ing sup­ply in a state fac­ing a se­vere short­age.

Op­po­nents have raised $22 mil­lion, mostly from ren­tal com­pa­nies and the Cal­i­for­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors.

The mea­sure would re­peal the Costa Hawkins Ren­tal Hous­ing Act, a law that banned rent con­trol on sin­gle-fam­ily homes and all hous­ing built af­ter Feb. 1, 1995. Costa-Hawkins also pro­hibits cities and coun­ties from telling land­lords what they can charge new renters. Leg­isla­tive ef­forts since to ex­pand rent con­trol, in­clud­ing one this leg­isla­tive ses­sion, have failed.

Real es­tate in­dus­try groups and other rent con­trol op­po­nents spent more than $10 mil­lion lob­by­ing Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials last year on a Costa-Hawkins re­peal bill and other is­sues.

Ten­ant groups can’t af­ford to chal­lenge the in­dus­try alone, so they teamed up with the AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion to put the rent-con­trol mea­sure, Propo­si­tion 10, on the bal­lot, said Christina Liv­ingston, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Al­liance of Cal­i­for­ni­ans for Com­mu­nity Em­pow­er­ment Ac­tion.

“No mat­ter how much we are able to raise, we are go­ing to be out­spent,” Liv­ingston said. “We know that with­out sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing that we don’t have much of a fight­ing chance.”

AIDS Health­care, which re­ported nearly $270 mil­lion in net as­sets at the end of 2016, op­er­ates clin­ics and phar­ma­cies around the world. It also brings in money from thrift stores it runs.


Michael We­in­stein, pres­i­dent of the AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion, in his Los An­ge­les of­fice over­look­ing the Hol­ly­wood Hills.

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