San Jose tenants protest rent hikes, poor management at developer’s affordable housing complexes

Margarito Gomez and his family have lived in the same San Jose one-bedroom apartment for 17 years, struggling to afford their home amid frequent rent increases and infrequent maintenance fixes. On Friday, they joined about 50 protesters seeking attention for the conditions and costs of their low-income housing.

They carried posters saying “Housing is a human right!” and “No more rent increase!” as they marched around the Orchard Glen Apartment housing complex, focusing their attention on the low-income apartment complexes owned by real estate developer KDF Communities.

The protesters demanded rent rollbacks to June 2022 rates, updated appliances, renovation of common areas, better quality repairs and improved security. They sent a letter to KDF Communities with their demands and said they would take their protest to City Hall on Aug. 11 if they do not receive a response within two weeks.

Gomez, 64, who is retired from construction work, lives in the apartment with his wife, a custodian, and two daughters, ages 21 and 8. The family already struggles to make rent, and in August will face a $92 monthly increase to $1,938, he said. Last year, the rent jumped by $138 monthly.

It feels like a lot to pay when “everything is bad in the apartment,” he said in Spanish. “The kitchen and bathroom cabinets are broken, for example. We’ve filed maintenance requests and they say they’re coming but they never show up.”

Bertha Espinosa, who has lived in the same complex for 11 years, said there was once a 3-foot hole in her ceiling through which she could see the sky. “I reported it to management and they didn’t fix it for a week,” she said. “We pay 80% of our income in rent, we deserve better conditions.”

Based in Newport Beach, California, KDF Communities, a developer focused on affordable housing, owns more than 15 properties in the Bay Area. Amanda Valderrama, regional supervisor at KDF’s property manager VPM Management, said the company has “been in communication with and continues working with the tenant associations in San Jose.”

Tenants in affordable units whose household income was 60% or less of the area medium income, adjusted for family size, received rent increases of up to 7.5% increase this year, Valderrama said.

During Friday’s protest, tenants complained about mold and cockroach-infested apartments, and ignored maintenance requests. The KDF Tenants Association was joined by organizers from the Regional Tenant Organizing Network and the community group Latinos United for a New America.

“The CEO should sit with the tenants and speak to them about rent hikes and how their demands can be supported,” said Gabriel Manrique, tenant organizer at Latinos United.

Last year, KDF sought to raise rent at one of its low-income apartment complexes, Valley Palms in San Jose, by as much as 24% but tenants organized to reduce it to 10%, said James Huynh, director of the Regional Tenant Organizing Network.

“This year, many tenants have received rent hikes in the 7-to-17% range,” he said. “KDF increases rents every year and they don’t even have to explain themselves.”


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