In 2018, billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, a Donald Trump confidante, spent $7.4 million in campaign contributors to trick and confuse California voters about Proposition 10 — the ballot measure that sought to repeal statewide rent control restrictions. Similar to Trump’s unscrupulous way of governing, Schwarzman was willing to do anything to protect his billions while middle- and working-class residents were getting slammed by unfair, excessive rents.
Schwarzman is the co-founder and CEO of Blackstone Group, one of the largest landlords in the world. Schwarzman and other predatory landlords have spent the past 20 years gaming the system to line their pockets on the backs of renters — which has fueled California’s housing affordability crisis.
Prop 10 sought to allow cities to expand and update rent control policies. It was endorsed by more than 525 organizations and civic leaders, including the League of Women Voters, the California Democratic Party, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, and the ALCU. Top experts at USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Columbia University agree that rent control is a key tool to stabilize the housing affordability crisis.
Schwarzman, though, wanted to keep rents high and maintain the status quo: seniors sleeping in their cars, families facing homelessness, teachers unable to pay skyrocketing rents. The billionaire helped finance a campaign of deception, and it worked. Prop 10 lost statewide, although it won a majority of voters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Berkeley, Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and numerous other cities hard hit by excessive rents.
Just like Trump, Stephen Schwarzman only cared about himself — no matter the damage done to others. In 2019, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing found that Blackstone was “wreaking havoc” in communities and helping to fuel the global housing affordability crisis.
But we can fight back — and strengthen rent control and other tenant protections. It’s why housing justice advocates recently launched the Rental Affordability Act.
Rent control puts a check on Schwarzman and other greedy corporate landlords. It returns power to us, and, in California, landlords are guaranteed by law a fair rate of return. We need rent control — now.