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Rent relief program available in Milpitas

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Milpitas recently launched a new rent relief program to help low-income locals live and work in the city.

The Workforce Housing Rental Assistance Program aims to provide 50 households with $645 a month for up to two years. Eligible residents can apply online until the application closes on May 1.

The intent is to help lighten any rent-related concerns locals may have, said city Housing Division Manager Robert Musallam.

“While it doesn’t cover the entire month, or may not cover a large majority of it, it does benefit the household,” he said. “They can use those funds to help provide for other areas they otherwise might have to sacrifice in order to cover their rent.”

The city allocated $773,341 in state Permanent Local Housing Allocation dollars for the program, and partnered with the software platform FORWARD to roll it out.

To qualify, applicants must be employed adults making at or below 30% of the Housing & Community Development (HCD) Area Median Income. In Santa Clara County, the median income for a family of four is $181,300, with HUD recognizing the 30% threshold at $53,500, according to the relief program’s website. The median household income in Milpitas is $169,460, and roughly 64% of residents own their own home. The median gross rent is $2,762, according to the city.

An applicant’s household must also have either one adult working and living in Milpitas; one adult living in Milpitas but working outside the city, or one adult living outside the city but working within its boundaries. The money will go directly to landlords to ensure it is used for rent-related expenses.

Priority will be given to households with at least one adult who lives and works in the city, according to Musallam. If more than 50 eligible households apply, renters will be selected through a lottery process. The program is a pilot and the city will evaluate whether to continue funding it after two years, Musallam said.

Milpitas currently has another rent relief program in which low-income households negatively impacted by COVID-19 can receive up to $5,000. The program has separate eligibility criteria and is financed by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a federal funding bill that provides families, businesses and governments with resources to recover from the pandemic.

Similar programs have already been implemented in nearby cities like San Francisco, which has an Emergency Rental Assistance Program that provides financial assistance once a year to residents at high risk of experiencing homelessness or housing loss.

While not ever municipality has rent assistance, some are passing rental-friendly measures to keep low-income locals in the area. The San Jose City Council recently approved a new “tenant preference” policy to help low-income tenants at risk of displacement stay in the area.

Vincent Woo, a housing activist for the pro-housing group Yes In My Backyard, said he is especially glad to see Milpitas use the program to assist its growing workforce.

“I think any program that tries to bring worker’s residences closer to their place of work is good,” he said. “I’m glad Milpitas did not institute a strict residency control on their relief program.”

The two largest employers in the city are Cisco Systems, which has more than 3,000 employees and industry equipment manufacturing company KLA, which has more than 2,000. Other major employers include Flex, Headway Technologies and the Milpitas Unified School District, according to the city.

“Milpitas historically has always been a place for people to go to sleep at night while they work in one of the higher-job-density areas nearby,” Woo said. “I think that is changing as commercial opportunities open in Milpitas, but the balance is definitely changing the other way.”



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