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Rent-Controlled Tenants Evicted To Make Room For U.S. Veterans

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Veteran Affairs will pay market-rate prices to house U.S. veterans. And at least one South Bay landlord may be evicting rent-controlled tenants out to make room for vets.

Some South Bay renters are fed up and they're calling for more rent protections and affordable housing.

This, after some landlords were found evicting rent control tenants in order to bring in higher paying tenants.

In San Jose where they are rallying to end "no-cause evictions."

Paul Mayer is the 92-year-old man who was evicted from his San Jose apartment last month.

The World War II vet had been living there for 44 years, and was under rent control, paying $525 a month, when the new owners sent him a letter to get out.

Tenant Paul Mayer said, "It was just shoved down my throat."

But over the past month, local activists have been doing some digging on Peggy Demaio and her family who own that apartment building on Magliocco Drive.

Public records show the Demaio family owns at least four properties in San Jose.

And it turns out they've issued 35 "no cause evictions" that were all completely legal.

Including Juvenal Valencia, who lived at this complex on Randolph Drive.

Evicted tenant Juvenal Valencia said, "I feel frustrated and sad, with a huge need to find a new place to live."

Shaunn Cartwright with the South Bay Tenants Union said, "One greedy family found a way to exploit the system."

Cartwright said, "The Demaio Family is a family that is pitting poor people against poor people."

She said the Demaios have been evicting those low-paying tenants and replacing them with homeless vets like Roberto Aponte, who'd been living in his car.

The Army vet gets a housing voucher from the Veteran Affairs, which pays full market rent.

He's thankful, but feels bad for the evicted families.

"It's totally wrong," Aponte said. "I think it should be more reviewed, it should be more looked into. These families that are getting booted because of veterans, that's totally wrong too."

Damien McGee, with Veterans Affairs said, "Causing homelessness for one person to end homelessness for another is not a solution, to anything."

At the Veteran Affairs office in Palo Alto, McGee says the VA's voucher program was intended to help people, not hurt them.

McGee said, "The market we live in is a brutal market. I think it's encouraging people to do things that I wouldn't agree with, and I would find to be unethical. But maybe this is a bigger issue."

That's why affordable housing activists are pressuring the city council to adopt sweeping changes to renters' rights.

Jeffrey Buchanan with Working Partnerships USA said, "We're calling upon the city council to act on April 18 to vote for just cause eviction protection, and to vote for a strong Ellis Act amendment."

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