“Just Like In The Motherland”: Renting in Milpitas as a Vietnamese Immigrant Family

Renters of Silicon Valley sat down with Hope Nguyen, a member and organizer with VietUnity South Bay. Hope shares her family’s experience with housing in Milpitas as well as the misconceptions around renting as an immigrant family.

“My experience with renting started when I was born. My parents immigrated here and started renting from the get-go. I’m the oldest of five siblings and we lived in a two bedroom duplex for over ten years. That duplex was falling apart. It was a ramshackle. There were cockroaches. There were probably termites, it was a fire hazard. And the bathroom, I remember, was just disgusting. The tub looked like it was going to fall down the sinkhole. There was a hole that was developing by the bathtub. The bathtub didn’t drain. So then we had this device in the bathtub that sucked the water out with a tube that went out to the backyard and the toilet didn’t flush for years. So we would had to scoop the water that couldn’t flow into the pipe of the bathtub and pour it into the toilet just so it could flush, just like in the motherland! That’s the bathroom all seven of us had to share. They didn’t fix it until way later. They didn’t fix it until the year we got evicted because the landlord wanted to move in and our family had to look for another home.


So, my parents are still renting. They still live in Milpitas. The rent has tripled or maybe more than tripled than what it used to be before. Now that we’re older, most of us moved out so [my parents] are living with them two and my two younger brothers. Now that we’re older and we we work, we pay their rent. We split their rent to pay them. The home now isn’t a ramshackle anymore. Everything works but we worry that rent is raising every year, at least 3%. They live in a three bedroom condo. I worry that they’re going to retire and they don’t have enough money to pay rent. We have to support ourselves in the future so I really worry that we won’t be able to support our parents.
I think there needs to be more affordable housing in Milpitas, San Jose, and the Bay Area because we grew up here. This is home to us and I feel like we’re getting pushed out. I would like to see more affordable housing.
A lot of people ask, “Oh you’re family has been here for over thirty years, why didn’t they just invest in a house?” That’s a valid question. My parents were laborers. My mom stayed home to take care of five kids. My dad worked at a supermarket. We could barely afford rent from the beginning and especially when the housing crisis came and we got evicted. When we got evicted, our rent doubled at the time none of us worked. We never made enough money for a down payment. There’s this misconception that we’re lazy and we poorly invested our money. We just never had the opportunity to buy a home.

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