In April and May the Milpitas City Council was asked to at least establish an emergency ordinance to protect residents from undue rent increases and unjustified evictions, and to also protect against source of income discrimination for renters. Instead of putting the brakes on rent gouging and preventing discrimination, they decided to create a housing subcommittee and then to create a rental assistance program by setting aside $2 million in the budget. They also sought a guarantee that Community Development Block Grants would go towards organizations that prevent homelessness and that support the homeless.
Tenants and those of us who advocate for tenants are grateful that the Council has recognized the dire need of the many Milpitas residents who are being faced with unaffordable rent increases. I want to thank the Mayor and Council for taking the time to come up with some creative ways to help those in need. Tenants look forward to some relief and plan to celebrate this victory in a couple of weeks (if you want to find out more about our celebration, please contact me!). Looking out for your neighbor is a virtue in many cultures.
I am concerned about how far this $2 million can go, and whether it can be accessed by the many people who may have middle class incomes but who are being priced out of their homes, and how one-time assistance will actually help someone who has to pay too much every month. Just this month a friend received notice of a more than 12% increase for the coming year. Last year it was 8%. His salary has not increased at these rates! Whose has? Oh yes, landlords! About 70% of Milpitas rental units built before 1995 (the only ones on which rent control could legally apply) are owned by large, out-of-town, corporate landlords (based on research in June by WPUSA). We are doing nothing to prevent continued gouging. Some have suggested providing more Section 8 vouchers for those who need help to afford local rents, yet the Council has not even considered an anti-discrimination ordinance. Right now these vouchers are almost useless.
Increasing housing stock to meet demand is, of course, the only way to impact the market without intervening with regulations. The Council has, over the past year, taken actions that will ensure that new construction will include more affordable housing, and that commercial construction will have to pay fees into an affordable housing fund. I also thank them for those actions! But how much and how fast can we build? Building homes takes time.
Where can my friend go, now that he can no longer afford Milpitas? He says he’ll go back to the valley. I’ve heard some folks say, “If you can’t afford to live here, you should leave.” Yet the people these increases affect are people who have volunteered their time to our schools and our youth programs, and who are raising their families here. They are MILPITANS! Large, corporate landlords are not. Yes, we should extend a helping hand to our neighbors in need, but unless we also rein in these exorbitant unwarranted increases, our neighbors will continue to be priced out, we will continue to have to bail them out, and the landlords get off scot free! Who does our Council represent? Join tenants, and others like me who care about our neighbors, to advocate for our local residents!