Realtors give $600,000 to defeat anti-speculation tax

Two Realtor groups have dumped nearly $600,000 into the campaign against Prop. G, the tax on flipping properties to discourage real estate speculation and evictions in San Francisco, a massive early donation that could signal the beginning of a campaign onslaught by the Realtors.

A campaign group calling itself Stop the Housing Tax, No on G, and Coalition of Homeowner, Renter, and Real Estate Organizations received a $425,000 donation from the California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC on Sept. 4 and $170,000 from the San Francisco Association of Realtors on Aug. 26, according to filings with the Ethics Commission.

Apparently, the Realtors recognize they have a strong financial stake in encouraging the flipping of houses within one to five years of being sold, on which the measure would levy a graduated tax of 24-14 percent in order to discourage. Such quick turnarounds often involve evicting tenants in order to increase a home’s market value.

Representatives for the Realtors didn’t immediately return our calls, but Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and a supporter of Prop. G, told us the huge donations indicate what’s really driving opposition to the measure.

“Make no mistake: the polished No on G mailer you receive spouting lies such as ‘G will hurt homeowners’ is coming directly from the mouths of the Realtors, the very people who have the most to gain by continuing to allow for evictions and flipping of apartments,” Shortt told the Guardian. “These are the same players who dumped piles of money to kill Ellis Act reform in Sacramento. And these are the same people who are making windfall profits by evicting low income tenants in San Francisco and wreaking havoc on our neighborhoods.”

UPDATE: Jay Cheng with the SF Association of Realtors just sent us an email that said, “We are working to raise funds to defeat the tax on housing, which will make San Francisco even less affordable to middle class families. We’re proud the people who know the most about housing are stepping up to defeat this tax, which will only backfire and make housing more expensive.”

Know the most, or profit the most? We asked a follow-up question about whether financial self-interest prompted the donations, and we’ll update this post if and when we hear back.