Tenant organizers have long known that landlord lobby groups, such as the California Apartment Association, have outsized influence on our political landscape. Our new research shows that landlords are grossly overrepresented among Bay Area policymakers.
We teamed up with PolicyLink and Bay Rising to explore the diversity of our local representatives and the impacts on housing policy. Our study, Decision-Making and Representation in Action, found that 25% of the region’s local elected officials are rental property owners, based on a sample of 208 elected officials around the Bay Area. Nationally, that number is less than 7% according to tax filer data.
In Vallejo, the impacts of landlord electeds on renters is clear. Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell owns the most rental properties of all the electeds included in this study. In 2019, the landlord-dominated city council voted down creating permanent local tenant protections. Despite these challenges, the Vallejo Housing Justice Coalition continues to organize to support tenants in Vallejo through tenant associations, leadership development, and a newly emerging land trust model.
In Antioch, we see the power of what organizers and electeds who represent our communities can accomplish together. Resident leaders with Rising Juntos, ACCE, and Monument Impact have been able to successfully move several tenant protections forward with Antioch City Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker as a key champion. Many years as a renter motivated Torres-Walker to help pass a new rent stabilization law last year and advocate for transitional housing options for residents experiencing homelessness.
“I am less impressed that Antioch has a predominantly Black [city] council,” says Torres-Walker. “I am more concerned about what we can do as a diverse body to do something meaningful as it relates to public policy for people of color.”
Read the full analysis and help build up a new generation of leaders to represent low-income renters of color – not landlord interests – by nominating people for our Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute. Applications are due October 22nd.