Is the $12,000-a-month apartment on its way?

Real estate growth chart

Real estate growth chart. 3d illustration

OPINION – It sounds crazy: The $12,000-a-month apartment. How can an average American afford to pay $12,000 per month for an apartment?

But it’s really not as far-fetched as you may think. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for housing are nearly 1,000 percent higher now than they were in the late 1960s. That’s a more than $971,000 difference in value.

A one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles in 1990 would cost you $615. Today, it costs nearly $3,000—a 442 percent increase. At this rate, that average apartment will cost you $12,000 in a matter of years.

What kind of city will LA become if rents are allowed to continue to climb to such absurd heights? Will the 75,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County turn into a half a million? Or will more people flee the state to avoid this catastrophe?

If rents continue to climb at twice the rate of inflation, we will still be in a terrible fix. The affordable housing crisis has never been more critical.

If California’s future is that virtually every family includes someone in danger of homelessness or choosing between rent and food, can we consider ourselves to be housed as a society? How can a state with 178 billionaires fail to house its own people?

People are desperate. They need immediate relief, and rent control is the only way to give it to them. If there is a better short-term solution, I would love to hear it, but the status quo is not the answer.

California is rapidly becoming a third-world state where income inequality dominates. A few very rich people live in the lap of luxury while the majority of Californians are just scraping by. At the top of that heap is Big Real Estate: Steven Schwarzman, the chairman and CEO of Blackstone (one of the largest landlords in the country), made $1.27 billion in 2022 and $896 million in 2023. That is enough to pay the rent of more than 50,000 Californians for a year.

Schwarzman’s net worth is about $38 billion, with Blackstone swooping in after the Great Recession to buy up single-family homes at dirt-cheap prices and then renting them back to the victims of foreclosure. And yet, we are constantly being told about the hardship of today’s landlords who can’t afford to build low-income housing.

It doesn’t pencil out. How can they pay themselves such a king’s ransom?

How does liberal California tolerate such injustice? Why are we unable to hold Big Real Estate and corporate landlords accountable for all the damage they have done to people in need? The answer is simple: They have effectively purchased our state government. They shower millions of dollars into campaigns and lobbying with the single purpose of extracting maximum profit from their assets, regardless of the consequences to the people of California.

We have an alternative. Come November, we can vote for Yes on 33, a 2024 ballot proposition that allows local communities to expand rent control. We can remove California’s statewide ban on rent control, giving renters much-needed relief by stopping predatory corporate landlords from charging unfair and unaffordable rents. We can side with our neighbors and act.

But will we? The choice is ours.

Michael Weinstein is the president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global HIV/AIDS organization, and AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation.