The exterior of Milpitas City Hall
Milpitas has launched a police transparency web portal for its residents. File photo.

Some Milpitas residents are about to get a break on rent, as the city pushes to address the affordability crisis.

Milpitas’ workforce rent relief program will give up to 50 households $645 a month to help supplement rent for up to two years, prioritizing low-income residents who live and work in the city. The program, in collaboration with technology company FORWARD Platform, hopes to help stabilize residents making 30% or less of the county’s median income — so residents can be more self-sustainable when the program ends. In Santa Clara County, the median income for a family of four is $181,300 according to 2023 state data, with 30% at $53,500.

The Milpitas City Council unanimously allocated more than $770,000 to the program in 2022, but needed to wait for state funding. The money comes from the state’s permanent local housing allocation, which gives cities cash for housing projects to address community needs. The city received roughly $1.4 million in state funding.

Applications for rent relief close May 1, with city officials aiming to dole out funds in July. To qualify, applicants must be adults, have a lease agreement, agree to a residence inspection and cannot live in Section 8 housing, which is a rent subsidy from the state. The money goes directly to the applicants’ landlords to ensure it is used for rent.

Residents who don’t qualify but need assistance can still apply for rent relief from the city through other programs.

Milpitas Housing Division Manager Robert Musallam said the city wants to take some of the weight off families’ shoulders.

“The goal is to limit the burden on rent-burdened households, freeing up those funds that would otherwise go towards rent to other things that could benefit the household,” he told San José Spotlight.

The workforce program is based on a pilot rent relief program the city implemented in 2019, which allocated $100,000 for emergency rent relief. Musallam said that project helped more than 100 households and was so successful that the city made it a permanent program.

The program will also prioritize Milpitas residents who work in other cities and people who live in other cities but work in Milpitas, if it doesn’t receive enough applications from residents who live and work in the city. Tahmina Martelly, director of client services for FORWARD Platform, said residents will be selected through a lottery process if more than 50 eligible households apply. The company is listed as the program administrator and will help with applications, community outreach and screening.

Mathew Reed, director of policy for housing nonprofit SV@Home, said he looks forward to seeing what the city does to support renters since the program is a short-term solution. Despite that, he said rental relief programs give families needed breathing room.

“It reduces people’s rent, gives them more money to spend on food, transportation, medicine, but also after school programs for their kid, not having to work that extra six hours a week to be able to afford the rent, having more time to invest in the stability of your family,” he told San José Spotlight.

Reed said he also wants to see the city expand its affordable housing footprint to give more security to some of its most vulnerable residents.

“This program doesn’t increase the long-term stock of affordable housing as an asset,” he said. “At the same time, we need to be thoughtful and courageous about really looking for a full range of different opportunities that might allow us to move the needle.”

Milpitas is working on building more affordable housing. Last year, city officials approved plans to designate part of a development for affordable housing for Milpitas Unified School District employees and looked over early plans to convert an office building into affordable housing.

Musallam said if the workforce rent relief program is successful, the city will consider the potential of more rent relief programs. He said even though it helps just a few households, it still holds significance for the families it assists.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have unlimited funding,” he said. “But that is going to make a huge difference for 50 households and maybe upwards of 200 individuals that live in the city. So it’s a pretty big deal from that standpoint.”

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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