SAN JOSE (KPIX) – Despite a statewide eviction moratorium, Jim Walker, his wife and their three children are at risk of losing their rent controlled home of 30 years. In May, they received a notice to vacate from their landlord.
“I was shocked, you lose all trust and belief in humanity,” Walker said.
The Walkers are renting a three bedroom, two bathroom townhouse for $2,000 a month. It’s what is often referred to as naturally occurring affordable housing in the Bay Area. Citing the need for major renovations the owner notified Walker he has to leave on August 20th. Walker worries this move will render his family homeless.
“I’ve lived out of my car so I know what that’s like. It’s very dangerous and the first thing I thought about was my children, of course and how are we going to live, you know, being thrown out onto the street?” Walker said.
His wife is a teacher, Walker is a retired law enforcement officer. Their collective salaries put them in the low income category earning less than $121,150 a year. San Jose has safety nets for people who are low income, just not enough of them. The Section 8 waiting list for housing assistance is closed and the average wait for a housing voucher is eight to ten years.
“There really are significant protections available if people avail themselves to it,” Jia Min Cheng, a senior attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid said.
Cheng cautions tenants like the Walkers from leaving their homes too soon. They could choose to stay, the courts haven’t been hearing any eviction cases and won’t be until at least until the end of August.
“Our call volumes have really gone way up since the pandemic began,” Cheng said.
The Walkers’ landlord did offer free rent for June, July and August saving them $5,333 the landlord suggests they put toward their relocation. If they were living in a similarly sized apartment instead of a duplex they would be entitled to much more relocation assistance. San Jose’s tenant protection ordinance stipulates relocation from a three bedroom apartment should garner $12,414 in relocation costs.
The same ordinance also entitles the tenant be given the option to move back in or be relocated to a similar property after those renovations are complete, but because this is a duplex those protections do not apply.
“I’d be willing to compromise and do anything to not be thrown out onto the street,” Walker said.
Walker is also increasingly worried about Audrey, his 13-year-old daughter. Audrey wasn’t supposed to survive birth, she was born without eyes making her severely disabled. He worries about health risks she’ll incur while they search for a new home.
“For my daughter being blind, it’s very dangerous. It’s dangerous for us to just cross the street with her,” he said.
Mostly Walker is worried they’re rapidly running out of time. He says the fear of being homeless and the fear of catching COVID-19 are compounding during this uncertain time.
“They’re scared. Every time we have to go out and go take a look at a property that we might want to rent or talk to somebody it’s the exposure. The danger is always there and it’s always present and it’s a topic of conversation almost every day in our house,” Walker said.
Walker’s landlord did not respond to requests for comment for this story.