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State Legislature's Only Renters Form Three Person Caucus to Fight for Renters Rights

Three of the state’s youngest legislators create the states smallest caucus to fight for CA tenants

For immediate release:
  • Nate Allbee
  • (415) 756-0561

Sacramento – Today Assemblymembers Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) and Alex Lee (D-San Jose) announced the creation of the state's first Renter’s Caucus. Of the 120 lawmakers in Sacramento, Haney, Bryan and Lee are the only three non-homeowners who are renters. Three of the legislature's youngest lawmakers, the new caucus members will advocate for the 17 million renters in California and fight for legislation that protects renters’ rights.

The situation for many renters in California is bleak. Housing shortages across the state have caused an affordability crisis resulting in millions of Californians struggling to pay their rent. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2.5 million renters in California have rent that they can’t afford and over 70% of low-income families struggle to make rent every month. A whopping 1.5 million low income renters pay more than half their monthly income towards housing. Of all states, California has the second highest median rent for a one bedroom, only ranking behind Hawaii. 

“For many Californians, there’s nothing going on but the rent. Over 2.5 million Californians cannot afford their rent and nearly a million are currently at risk of eviction,” said Assemblymember Haney, the newly elected Chair of the Caucus and a former pro bono tenant rights attorney. “44% of California residents are renters but make up just 2% of California’s 120 lawmakers. With millions of Californians unable to afford their rent and a post-covid eviction tsunami happening as we speak, it’s critical that we come together to advocate for pro-renter policies and grow our representation.” 

A caucus is a group of lawmakers with similar identities who officially organize—with permission from their party’s leadership—to advocate for the communities they represent. Caucuses have an annual slate of legislative priorities and advocate for policy most important to their constituencies. The Democratic Party’s Women's Caucus, the LGBT Caucus, the Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus have all been influential in passing legislation that protects the rights of their communities. 

“The creation of our renter’s caucus is an important step in the fight for tenant rights,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San José). “The power imbalance is tipped in corporate landlords' favor but we will change that. When I was elected in 2020, I was one of the only renters in the Legislature. Now as our caucus continues to grow, we can collectively tackle the major issues facing renters like repealing Costa Hawkins, reforming the Ellis Act, and making housing affordable for all.”

While many caucuses claim dozens of members, with the largest being the 30 member Latino Caucus, the Renter’s Caucus will be the legislatures’ smallest with only Haney, Bryan and Lee representing the interests of the millions of California families that rent.

“We have 5.89 million renter households in California — and I’m one of them,” said Assemblymember Bryan. “Here in Los Angeles, more than half of residents rent – and almost 30% spend more than half of their income on housing. This makes a huge difference – most of those folks have cut back on food and clothing just to afford their apartments. Many of our neighbors are one crisis — a car accident, a medical condition — away from becoming unhoused. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can make different choices that keep people housed, improve family stability for all of us, and keep our neighborhoods vibrant and our communities thriving. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Renters’ Caucus and the rest of the Legislature on these pressing, intersectional challenges.”

The first meeting of the caucus is slated for the start of the 2023 session. At the inaugural meeting the caucus will vote on legislative priorities for the year and will welcome newly elected legislators that are also renters. 

“We’re going to fight for pro-renter legislation like eviction protections, rental assistance, and new housing,” said Haney. “And we’re also hoping to elect more renters. With a number of renters on the ballot in November, if we’re lucky we might even double our caucus membership.”