This article has been updated.
The tenants of the Sunnyhills apartments are at risk of losing their homes after the owner of the complex, JMK Investments, began seeking to convert the low-income apartments into market-rate housing.
This conflict started back in 2017, when JMK Investments notified tenants that the apartments would be demolished and replaced with townhomes, most of which the tenants could not afford.
Upon hearing of this, many Sunnyhills tenants approached the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County and organized a meeting at the Police Headquarters near the apartments. About 90 to 100 tenants attended the meeting, where they voted to form a tenants association.
Also in 2017, the owners of JMK Investments worked a deal with the Milpitas City Council in which the city would allocate $1.25 million to JMK Investments for capital improvements to the property. In exchange, JMK Investments would keep the apartments as well as add 44 additional units (37 of which would be market-rate).
However, many tenants have stated that while the city has held up their part of the deal and paid the money to JMK Investments and allowed for their construction project on the apartments, many capital improvements have not been made by the company in the last five years: “Our washing machines break every day and we can’t use them, so where are these improvements?” states Lusi Wang, a tenant at the Sunnyhills Apartments.
Since 2017 and the exchange between JMK Investments and the City Council, the apartments have continued to stay affordable. This changed last summer when JMK Investments gave a notice that they would opt out of a HUD Contract by February of 2023.
“There are 149 units there which are subsidized by HUD, and the people would have what’s called ‘project-based vouchers,’” states Sandy Perry, an activist for the Sunnyhills Apartments.
These vouchers would ensure that tenants would not have to leave the property.
Along with this, JMK Investments asked for $6.7 million over 20 years from the City Council, money which the City states it does not have. When asked about the money, Perry stated that “I don’t know if they have it, or if they don’t, but I don’t think it’s reasonable for JMK to demand a subsidy from the City.”
Currently, many tenants have been attempting to push JMK Investments to sell the Sunnyhills property to a non-profit, a public agency, or a housing authority, a move that JMK Investments has refused to make.
However, Sunnyhills tenants still continue to build popular pressure through in-person meetings and an online petition, both of which have continually grown. They are also working toward taking this petition to Milpitas schools, churches, community fairs, and the City Council.
In the end, Sunnyhills tenants hope to work with the Milpitas City Council and other Milpitas citizens to pressure JMK Investments to sell the apartments so that they may remain affordable.
The City Council is looking through three potential scenarios for the Sunnyhills Apartments.
One scenario is for JMK Investments to renew the HUD contract for five more years to ensure that the 149 units remain affordable. Currently, JMK Investments has not given any confirmation to the city about renewing the contract.
If JMK Investments goes on to not renew the HUD contract, they will proceed to follow the process from AB 1521 and HUD in order to convert the housing to market rate. In this time, tenants would be given a Tenant Protection Voucher (for those who will stay in their units) or an Enhanced tenant Protection voucher (for those who will move out of their unit).
In the case that JMK Investments decides to demolish the current property, tenants would receive a Tenant Protection Voucher as they move into their new unit. Through these vouchers, tenants will be able to move to a housing unit with rental assistance.