The California Apartment Association is MAGA

Illustration of a greedy businessman holding a money bag over a cityscape with high-rise buildings and cranes.

HOUSING – To put it bluntly, the California Apartment Association is a merchant of death. The blood of all the people who live on California’s streets and die prematurely is on its hands – and the hands of the MAGA corporate landlords that give the CAA its funding and marching orders.

The CAA, also known as the California “Anti-Tenant” Association, has done more to impoverish Californians than any other organization. It has enormous power: through millions in campaign contributions, they own state and local politicians all over California.

Housing Is A Human Right, the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, found that the CAA distributed real estate campaign cash to state and local elected officials in 51 out of California’s 58 counties. It’s no wonder that renter protections face certain premature death in the State Capitol and City Halls every year.

Group of protesters holding signs and banners advocating for rent control and affordable housing.

The CAA is actually the front group for many of the largest corporate landlords in the country, which you can see by looking at their board of directors and donor lists. Billionaire landlords, who hide behind struggling “mom and pop” owners, call the shots at the CAA. These same oligarchs give boatloads of money to MAGA causes.

Sares-Regis Group Co-Founder John Hagestad contributed $40,000 to Trump Victory between 2016 and 2020, according to federal campaign filings. Sares-Regis President Jeff Bailey sits on the CAA’s board of directors.

Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren delivered $25,000 to Trump Victory in 2016. Irvine Company executive Michelle Grande sits on the CAA’s board.

Fuller Enterprises President Doug Smith shelled out $2,800 to Trump Victory in 2020. He sits on the CAA’s board.

Conservice Utility Management and Billing Co-Owner Marc Treitler contributed $54,150 to Trump Victory between 2019 and 2020. You guessed it. Treitler sits on the CAA’s board.

Sares-Regis and Fuller Enterprises have also contributed $297,000 and $100,000, respectively, to the California Apartment Association Issues Committee, which is funding Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the CAA. That committee is gearing up to stop the Yes on 33 Act, the November ballot measure that will expand rent control in California.

That’s not the end of the MAGA connection to the CAA.

R&V Management CEO Gerry Ranglas delivered $18,854 to multiple Trump committees between 2016 and 2023. R&V also contributed $1,315,700 to the California Apartment Association Issues Committee.

And Lyon Living CEO Frank Suryan Jr. shelled out $125,000 to Trump Victory between 2016 and 2020. Suryan Jr. contributed $89,100 to the California Apartment Association Issues Committee.

They all want to protect their ability to charge outrageous, unfair rents, making billions off the backs of hard-working Californians.

And don’t be fooled by the CAA and corporate landlords’ lies when they try to kill the Yes on 33 Act. They don’t care about solving the housing affordability and homelessness crises — by charging sky-high rents, they’ve fueled our humanitarian emergency.

A recent UC San Francisco study found that skyrocketing rents are pushing people into homelessness, with more and more unhoused Californians dying on the streets every year.

It all started, years ago, when a little-known law, called Costa-Hawkins, was passed by a single vote in 1995 and then froze rent control in the state. Leading the charge was the California Anti-Tenant Association. Our runaway rents are the legacy of Costa-Hawkins.

Now we have to go back to the future to undo the damage, and a broad coalition of housing justice groups, social justice organizations, and labor unions is working to pass the Yes on 33 Act in November.

Californians will vote YES for rent control in 2024, striking a blow for justice for renters. Because the rent is too damn high.

(Patrick Range McDonald is the award-winning advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right and a regular contributor to CityWatchLA.com.)