With gentrification remodeling the most iconic cities in the U.S., a private equity firm named Trion has swooped in to renovict—or evict for the purpose of clearing an area prior to planned renovations—a Silicon Valley apartment building that previously had affordable rent and was housing primarily working-class Latino families.
Before Trion purchased the 48-unit apartment building in Redwood City, rent was 40 percent below market value, but the sale was “presented (as) an opportunity ... to maximize rent growth.”
Indeed, executives at Trion Properties have made it abundantly clear that they plan to replace current residents with high-paid tech industry workers from the nearby headquarters of Facebook.
Laura Hernandez, who cares for her three-month-old daughter while her husband Adan Estevez works at a recycling center, recently received an eviction notice with no explanation of why they were being kicked out of their one-bedroom apartment.
“Because I breastfeed my daughter, I feel like I’m passing that stress and depression on to her,” she said during an interview in Spanish with The Guardian. “We’re not asking for a place to live for free. We just need a little more time.”
En masse renovictions like this are routine in the Bay Area, where majority-white tech workers' paychecks continue to get fatter and fatter, while the paychecks of the Latinx, Chicano, Black and Asian workers who deliver, clean, cook, repair, and stock their goods shrink. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city of San Francisco is U$S3,866, the highest in the nation.
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Trion’s marketing materials, however, are exceptionally transparent in their aims: in their purchase of the apartments, they stated their goal was to “rebrand” and “revitalize” the property, raise rents, and attract “young working professionals” who are employed at “Google, Facebook, and other Fortune 100 tech companies.”
The three-story building is a mere 5 miles from Facebook’s headquarters, 10 miles from Google, 20 miles from Apple, and “a short drive away from many other tech startups contributing to seismic demographic shifts in the region,” The Guardian reports.
In an incentive to gentrify, Facebook has offered its employees bonuses between US$10,000 and US$15,000 if they live within 10 miles of campus.
“This is a blatant attempt to displace people,” Salimah Hankins, senior staff attorney with Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, a nonprofit representing some of the evicted tenants, told The Guardian. “This is all about a ‘great investment opportunity.’ There’s no understanding of the real human cost.”
Managing partner Max Sharkansky, in a rather patronizing statement, said, “While rents will be increasing at this property, we would, of course, be delighted to have the original residents come back to this building as residents in the renovated units if they would like to.”
The new landlords are not offering any financial assistance to relocate or giving tenants additional time to secure new housing, according to Hankins.
Gentrification has pushed thousands of low-wage service workers as far away as Sacramento, Modesto, and Fresno, all of which are at least a 90-minute drive from Silicon Valley. By some estimates, as many as 70,000 low-income workers in the Silicon Valley commute more than 50 miles to get to work.
Dora Diaz, another tenant at Buckingham Apartments, told The Guardian she doesn’t know what she will do if she receives an eviction notice.
“I get nervous just even thinking about opening the door, because I’m scared I’m going to see the paper,” she said. “I feel like it’s only a matter of time.”
Mariana Jimenez is another 39-year-old tenant who lives with her brother and his two children. In telling her story of being forced to leave next month, she broke down crying.
“We are looking and making a lot of appointments ... but it’s all very expensive,” said Jimenez, who works as a nanny. “Someone needs to help us.”
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