Low-income Tenants in San Jose Protest Rent Increases and Poor Conditions

Low-income tenants from four low-income housing buildings rallied Friday against rising rents and alleged inhumane living conditions, saying they are unable to afford affordable housing.

The KDF Tenants Association, representing over 1,000 tenants from the low-income apartments at Valley Palms, Orchard Glen, Cherry Creek and Regency Square in San Jose, protested outside of Orchard Glen Apartments and was supported by the Regional Tenant Organizing Network, a coalition that brings together local organizing efforts across six counties in the Bay Area that fight for tenant rights.

According to the tenants, people have had to live with mold and in cockroach-infested apartments. Their maintenance requests are ignored and rent has drastically risen. The tenants from the different complexes came together last month to form the association after facing similar problems.

“Housing is a human right,” said Ofelia Nuno, a tenant at Valley Palms for 12 years who has had to choose between the necessities for her family and paying the rent. According to her, their rent increased by up to 24% last year compared to a 7% increase in 2021.

“If the situation continues with the high rent increase, not only will I be forced to leave San Jose,” she said, “but also my entire community, which is the working class.”

This year, tenants have received notice of a rise of 12% on average with the highest increase being 17% or $310 per month in Regency Square, which will take effect from August.

These buildings are owned by KDF Communities, a real estate development and investment company with affordable housing building across the state. KDF has been sued numerous times in recent years over alleged fire, cockroach infestation and negligence, among other cases.

“There was a 3-foot hole in my ceiling and I could see straight through the sky,” said Bertha Espinosa, a tenant at Orchard Glen for 11 years. “I reported the issue to the management and they didn't fix it for a week. We pay 80% of our income in rent, we deserve better conditions.”

According to Espinosa, the management did not communicate in a timely manner and when they do respond to complaints, the repairs are rushed and of low quality. Lack of responsiveness around necessary repairs affects their well-being and ability to take care of their families, she said.

The tenants said they will not stop their campaign until the owners come to the negotiating table and speak with them.

The demands by the KDF Tenant Association are:

  • Roll back the rent to June 2022 levels across all complexes.
  • Set up a company-wide policy where residents can make formal complaints, and communicate in their preferred language. KDF Communities should follow up and provide direct updates. All notices and communication should be translated into residents' preferred language. Tenants in the association speak Spanish and Vietnamese as their primary languages.
  • Update appliances and renovate common areas of the apartment complexes.
  • Enforce a standard for high-quality repairs and timely and clear responses to maintenance requests. When repairs are not done properly, tenants should be able to make a formal complaint directly to the landlord.
  • Improve security in the complex with cameras, gates and security monitors.

The protest was also supported by Latinos United for a New America (LUNA), a community organization that organized the tenants at Valley Palms last year.

“We are still continuing organizing because this year a lot of the tenants have received a letter with the rent increase around 10 to 12%,” said Gabriel Manrique, a community organizer with LUNA. “And unfortunately most of them get paid the minimum wage so they can't afford to pay that rent increase.”

The tenants along with LUNA on Friday sent a letter of demands addressed to Marquis Hyatt, the co-founder of KDF Communities, and plan to campaign again next month at City Hall if they don't receive a response.

KDF Communities or the property management did not respond to requests for comment.

Prachi Singh is a reporter with Bay City News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *