Low income housing spared wrecking ball in Milpitas

A low income housing complex in Milpitas was spared Tuesday night in a vote by city council.

Impassioned pleas came from residents facing eviction from the apartment complex.

The landlord notified them of plans to tear down the complex to build townhomes at market rate. Tenants packed Tuesday's Milpitas City Council meeting with their concerns.

For Patricia Lopez-Ruiz, the Sunnyhills Apartments in Milpitas has been home for 22 years. On a fixed income and on Section 8 housing, the 58-year-old widow pays $386 a month for a three bedroom apartment she shares with her two adult sons.
"Without help from Section 8," said Lopez-Ruiz. "I won't afford the high cost of living especially the rent."

They're frustrated after learning the owner Santa Clara-based JMK Investments does not plan to renew its subsidized housing contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Instead, the owner planned to demolish the complex and build 220 townhomes for sale at market rate leaving 170 families forced out.

"I do feel it's unfair and of course landlords have rights," said Allysson McDonald of the Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association. "I think we need to have a balance with human rights and find out a way in the Bay Area to come to a solution."

At Tuesday's meeting, council members considered an emergency ordinance prohibiting all affordable housing units from being converted to market rate until the city can determine what can be done to help residents. The ordinance can be enacted for 45 days with a possible extension for up to two years.

"The whole Bay Area is in deficit of affordable and low income housing and Milpitas can't afford to lose more," said MacDonald.

"I'm really scared and not secure," Doyle said. "I have no place to go."

For 65-year-old Antoinette Doyle, who's also lived at the complex for 22 years and relies solely on Social Security checks, she's worried she won't be able to find comparable housing in the Bay Area anytime soon.

"Everything is a waiting list," said Doyle. "Some are three years, some are five years no availability nothing."

JMK Investments did not return our call for comment. Residents and housing advocates are hoping to work with city, with the county and the landlord to find a solution for these tenants.

The city council had delayed voting on emergency just cause ordinance before the vote came late Tuesday night.

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