According to a new report, rent increases in Silicon Valley are pricing some residents out of their own homes.
“Facebook is taking everything we have … and giving us what? Nothing. Just pain in our lives,” said Sandra Zamora, a 29-year-old pre-school teacher who is part of a group of Menlo Park tenants facing massive rent increases from landlords due to their building’s proximity to Facebook’s offices. “Facebook is just ruining the community,” Zamora told the Guardian in a recent interview.
Despite living in the same area for 11 years, Zamora and many like her may soon be forced out of their homes as Facebook expands their Menlo Park location. A group of real estate companies including Menlo Gate and Redwood Landing Properties recently purchased Zamora’s home and told tenants that their rent would be increasing from $1,100 per month to $1,900 and that if tenants didn’t agree to this new lease, they would be forced to vacate the property within 60 days.
Another tenant of the property, 64-year-old Teresa Rivas, said that the sudden change in rental price had caused her huge amounts of stress, “I’m very stressed. I have a lot of headaches,” said Rivas. She claimed that she often wakes at 3:00 a.m. with her mind racing, wondering how she’s going to afford rent: “I’m feeling so tired, thinking about, what am I going to do?”
The tenants attempted to fight the sudden rent increase by forming a union but quickly found they had very little legal recourse and no rent protections whatsoever. The tenants were particularly upset by the sudden rent increase as their living conditions were not even worth paying the $1,100 they originally paid, let alone $1,900. Apartments had cockroaches, cracks in the walls, dirty carpets and poor lighting — all issues that the tenants had complained about for some time but had never been fixed.
Ricardo Colin, a 24-year-old tenant and computer science student, said that soon he may have to quit his studies and get a job to afford the new rent price: “I’ve lost many friends because of the rents and because of Facebook,” said Colin. A non-profit legal service, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, represented the tenants and negotiated a short delay of the increases but tenants will soon be forced to pay the new higher rent prices. Daniel Saver, an attorney that represented the tenants said: “It is a completely unjust situation, even if what’s happening to these people may be legal.”
Facebook declined to comment on the situation but pointed the Guardian towards the company’s pledge to invest in affordable housing. One of Facebook’s planned developments would see the construction of 1,500 new units in the Menlo Park region, but only 15 percent of these developments would offer below market rate rents. Zamora said that one of the few choices she had left was to move to the city of Modesto 90 miles away from her current apartment: “We’ve been here for so long,” she said, “and they [Facebook] just really don’t care.”