For the past two years, residents of the Lazy J Senior Mobile Home Park have received a notice of a $20 rent increase in their April space rent and utility bill, so when the bill came near the end of March and there was no notice of an increase, everyone breathed a sigh of great relief.
Spring is a time of hope, after all. There were five lambs born this year to the flock of sheep that graze the old riverbed that separates the old and the newer section of the park. Things are starting to happen in the garden area down there. Flowers are blooming, seeds are sprouting.
Why that number? No explanation is provided or required. Mobile home park owners are free to raise the rent by as much as they want. They don’t have to justify the amount or provide any reasons for it. When it comes to rent, all the power is in the hands of the owner. The residents have nothing to say about it. They get a 90 day notice of the increase, but that’s the sole requirement.
The letter that announced the rise included an offer of a one year lease, but made clear that signing such a lease would not protect against future rent hikes. The letter, written for Inspire Communities by Regional Manager Kathie Campbell of Gold River, also stated that the policy of the ownership and management is that rent will not be raised more than once in any 12 month period “for existing residents.” Implicit in that statement is a promise that rents will go up every year.
Here are a few facts that explain the terror in many old hearts. The average Social Security check is $14,000 a year. A lot of very elderly residents are terrified that more and more of their monthly pittance is being consumed by rising rents and rising utilities and they have nowhere to go for help.
Don’t kid yourself that there are lots of programs out there for them. There aren’t. When Ben Shepherd and his cohorts say nothing has happened yet and let’s wait until it does, it is not surprising that old people lose hope and fear the future. More and more they are needing financial help from their children who likewise are facing an uncertain economic future. And if they have no children, or if their children are not able to help them, these vulnerable old people are completely at the mercy of a cold and calculating economic policy that gives to the rich and takes from the poor.
Here at the Lazy J, some of us are pinning our hopes on the Arcata City Council. At some point, we hope that the council will put us on their agenda and we can come up with a plan that will protect vulnerable elders from the predatory capitalism that has become the scourge of so many in the world.
If there is no help, then we all must try our best not to live too long because we most certainly will not prosper.
Mary Ella Anderson is a resident of the historic and legendary Lazy J Ranch in Arcata, a community of elders seeking to help one another.