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This year, the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) launched a lobbying effort to dramatically increase the allowable buildout of primarily market-rate housing throughout the state. The campaign has consisted of two arms:
1) “Operation Local Growth” and
2) Support of a pro-housing-supply package of bills.
Per the attached brochure released by C.A.R.;
“Operation Local Growth seeks to target local elected officials who oppose growth in their communities by developing an offensive political strategy. The project seeks to, not only remove some of these elected officials from office, but also make a powerful political statement about the need for growth in California. The priority of this program is to send a clear message that C.A.R.'s philosophy to fix the housing crisis is to increase the supply of housing in California. As a result, C.A.R. plans to conduct aggressive campaigns to promote this message."
How "Operation Local Growth" works: A local Association of Realtors (AOR) notifies C.A.R. of an elected official or candidate who opposes growth in his/her community. Then CREPAC (California Real Estate Political Action Committee) will move forward with an opposition research report and an opposition campaign against the named elected official/candidate. The notice states; "By requesting this program, the respective Local AOR acknowledges that the campaign will be mostly negative."
"CREPAC" is a bipartisan Political Action Committee (PAC) that supports candidates who support association policies.
In conjunction with “Operation Local Growth”, C.A.R. supported a pro-housing-supply package of bills during the 2020 legislative session. The bills included: AB-2345 (re: Increasing Density Bonuses); SB-995 (re: Streamlining review in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)); SB-902 (re: Up-zoning single family zones without CEQA review); SB-1085 (re: Density Bonus Law & decreasing affordability requirements); SB-1120 (re: Ending single-family zoning); and SB-1385 (re: Ministerial approval of housing as an allowable use in office, retail, and commercial zones and requiring such housing to meet minimum densities).
C.A.R.’s attached brochure about the pro-housing-supply legislation doesn't fully explain the bills. Descriptions of the bills illuminate a false assumption that more potential buildout of housing automatically leads to more affordable housing being built. For instance, there is no mention of the fact that AB-2345 (re: Density Bonus Law) reduces the percentage of lower-income affordability required for a project to receive incentives or concessions.
In his special report entitled; “Inside Game: California YIMBY, Scott Wiener, and Big Tech’s Troubling Housing Push”, award winning investigative journalist Patrick Range McDonald connected the dots about the relationships and money ties between Big Real Estate, Big Tech, California YIMBY, and Senator Scott Wiener. Senator Wiener authored 4 out of the 6 above-listed bills (SB-995, SB-902, SB-1120, SB-1385).
McDonald exposed that these powerhouses drive a troubling “trickle-down” housing agenda that fuels gentrification and displacement of existing homeowners and tenants. They justify their market-rate housing push with an outdated “supply and demand” argument: deregulate land use as much as possible, an apartment construction boom will follow, and sky-high rents will stabilize and take a downturn since more units have come onto the market.
However, this "trickle-down" strategy creates an imbalance, in which very high demand at the low end of the housing market is met with more supply at the high end. Developers end up building almost exclusively market-rate and luxury housing, which often triggers gentrification and displacement of middle- and working-class neighborhoods.
Such an approach does little to directly address California's housing affordability crisis.
C.A.R.'s lobbying effort ("Operation Local Growth" and support of 2020 pro-housing-supply legislation) is in accord with the “trickle-down” housing agenda. It illustrates another arm of the Real Estate Industry that is trying to take away local control, deregulate land use, and allow unrestricted, predominately market-rate housing growth.
Although, C.A.R., as an organization, supports unsustainable housing and population growth, there were numerous Realtors who worked diligently to defeat the aforementioned detrimental high-density housing bills. One Realtor stated that she never includes PAC donations in her association dues.
Recommendation: If you support local control of land use and sustainable slow growth, then, in order to counterbalance C.A.R.’s lobbying efforts, donate to campaigns of candidates who espouse your views and oppose legislation that caters to the “trickle down” housing agenda.