Tenant Group Complains Mailer Misleads Voters

 

Apartment association could face suit over statement in rent control piece

Renters’ rights advocates in six Bay Area cities including Alameda filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) declaring a political mailer sent by the California Apartment Association (CAA) contains a misleading statement.

Rent control activists from Oakland, Alameda, Hayward, San Mateo, Burlingame and Mountain View united together to file the complaint — all six cities have a rent control measure on the election ballot — on Oct. 13. The complaint was accompanied with two protest rallies in San Mateo and Hayward. 

The mailer, which was sent to residents in the six cities earlier this month, states that “California’s Legislative Analyst Shows that Measure M1 Hurts Renters & Alameda.” In the FPPC filing, the renters’ groups says CAA’s mailer “misleads any reasonable reader to believe that it is sent by the California State Legislature’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO).” The complaint goes on to say the mailer is “deceptive as it claims the LAO has taken a position on a local ballot measure.” 

The LAO logo is depicted on the mailer’s header, including a ribbon image celebrating LAO’s “75 years of service.” The message “Proudly Paid for by California Apartment Association Issues Committee” appears at the bottom. This caused the group to declare CAA is “impersonating” a government agency. 

LAO did not publicly or privately oppose Measure M1. LAO is a nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor that does not take positions on local ballot measures. LAO’s job is to estimate the fiscal effect on state and local government of all proposed initiatives and prepares analyses of all measures that qualify for the statewide ballot, according to its website. 

Tom Bannon, CEO of CAA, said “We stand by the mail piece that we put out,” in an article in New York Times. CAA made its declaration based on LAO’s affordable housing report titled “Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing,” which was released on Feb. 9. CAA included the “Housing Shortage Also Creates Problems for Rent Control Policies” portion of the report in the second page of the mailer. The report does caution cities using rent control as the only method to combat rising rents. 

“The state’s shortage of housing also presents challenges for expanding rent control policies,” stated in the report. “Proposals to expand rent control often focus on two broad changes: (1) expanding the number of housing units covered — by applying controls to newer properties or enacting controls in locations that currently lack them — and (2) prohibiting landlords from resetting rents to market rates for new tenants. Neither of these changes would increase the supply of housing and, in fact, likely would discourage new construction.”

The mailer also included a portion of the report titled, “Declining Quality of Housing.” This section the report states that “rent control policies reduce the income received by owners of rental housing. In response, property owners may attempt to cut back their operating costs by forgoing maintenance and repairs. Over time, this can result in a decline in the overall quality of a community’s housing stock.”

Later in the conclusion of the report, LAO believes that “expanding affordable housing programs to serve these households would be extremely challenging and prohibitively expensive. In our view, we suggest policy makers primarily focus on expanding efforts to encourage private housing development.”

Nevertheless, the LAO report does not oppose Measure M1 or any rent control measure. In fact, the report was released before Measure M1 was even crafted.  

The California Apartment Association is the nation’s largest statewide trade group representing owners, investors, developers, managers and suppliers of apartment communities.