Mary Ella Anderson: Rent stabilization now!

Note: The Arcata City Council will take up the matter of rent stabilization at its Wednesday, July 1, 6 p.m. meeting. This news just reached the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association, whose last-minute letter to the council appears below this column. – Ed.

Although it’s apparently off the radar of the majority of the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and probably most city councils, the Humboldt County Mobile Home Owners Coalition is growing.

A capacity crowd turned out to learn about mobile home owners’ rights at the latest park to fall under corporate ownership. The Ocean West Clubhouse hosted the event which drew residents from mobile home parks in Fortuna, McKinleyville, Eureka, Trinidad, Arcata and Dunsmuir in Siskiyou County.

Mary Ella Anderson badgeThree representatives of the Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League (GSMOL) gave an overview of the history of mobile home parks in California. Most of them were built in the 1950s and ’60s when California’s population was growing rapidly. For many of these parks, the electrical, gas and water infrastructures have not been upgraded since. In the last decade, financial moguls such as Warren Buffett have seized on mobile home parks as a lucrative investment.

Despite their names, the mobiles are pretty stationary. Most of the older ones are not movable; moving when possible is very expensive and older mobiles would not be welcomed in other parks. That means mobile home park residents are easily exploited by the large corporations that are buying them up. Very few parks are owned by families anymore.

GSMOL was formed to lobby on behalf of park residents. The existence of the California Mobilehome Residency Law, which protects the rights of homeowners, is largely due to GSMOL’s presence in Sacramento.

There are 4,600 mobile home parks in the state and they represent a major source of housing for low wage and retired citizens. Many park managers are not aware of the laws protecting residents and sometimes threaten older residents or seek their eviction. Many park residents don’t realize that they have the right to assemble in the park and the right to organize on their own behalf. When we were organizing our Home Owners Association in the Lazy J, we encountered residents who feared that joining the HOA would get them in trouble with the owners.

Residents of mobile parks own their mobile but pay rent on the space the mobile occupies. In earlier days, rent hikes were modest but with the influx of corporate ownership, increases are reaching the point where residents’ incomes can’t keep up. Over 100 jurisdictions in California have adopted rent stabilization to protect residents while still insuring a fair return to owners. Most recently, such ordinances have been adopted in Marina, Watsonville and Ukiah. The coalition is pushing for Humboldt County to catch up and move to protect vulnerable elders and low wage workers from losing their homes.

Mary Ella Anderson is president of the Arcata Lazy J Home Owners Association and a member of the county-wide Mobile Home Owners Coalition. She believes that these are very interesting times.

June 29, 2015
 
 
Dear Mayor and Councilmembers:
The Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA) is a nonprofit trade association representing the owners and operators of mobilehome communities throughout the state of California. Having been founded in 1945, WMA is one of the oldest, largest and most respected trade associations of its kind in the United States.
WMA has literally just become aware that your Council is scheduled to take up the matter of mobilehome park rent control this Wednesday evening. We strongly oppose rent control, but with less than 48 hours before the hearing, we simply do not have the time to properly notify our members and to organize a group to represent us at the hearing. Your Council is entitled to hear from all sides on this extremely complex and controversial public policy issue. It would be unfair and unwise to listen to only one side — the side that favors and would benefit from rent control.
For this reason, we respectfully request a postponement of this hearing so that we may have the time to prepare a full and complete presentation for your Council.
Very truly yours,
 
DOUG JOHNSON
Senior Regional Representative
Local Government & Public Affairs

WESTERN MANUFACTURED HOUSING COMMUNITIES ASSOCIATION
Northern California & Bay Area Regional Office
1667 Columbus Road
West Sacramento, CA 95691-4902
(916) 374-2702 Office 

(916) 374-2703 Facsimile
www.wma.org Website


WMA — Advancing and Protecting the Manufactured Housing Industry since 1945

OPPOSITION TO JULY 1, 2015, CITY COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM X-A

Dear Mayor and Councilmembers:

The Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA) and its Arcata members are deeply concerned about California’s worsening affordable housing crisis and the harmful impact it is having on lower income families and seniors. Although our members did not sign up to be affordable housing providers — nor do they receive any government incentives or assistance for providing such housing — they are proud that hundreds of Arcatans found the quality and affordability they were looking for by choosing to live in one of Arcata’s six mobilehome communities. Because we care about our residents and want this type of housing to continue to meet their needs for years to come, WMA and our members strongly oppose rent control.

Contrary to popular opinion, rent control does not preserve affordable housing — it erodes it. If Arcata were to adopt a rent control ordinance today, current residents would see their home values dramatically increase upon resale as prospective mobilehome park residents will pay a premium for city controlled space rents. Over time, these mobilehomes — just like stick-built houses — will become so expensive that lower income families and seniors will be squeezed out. Under rent control, Arcata’s mobilehome communities could easily become havens for well-heeled buyers looking for weekend vacation homes near the ocean. It happened in Capitola, where over the span of three decades city taxpayers paid out millions for its ill-conceived rent control ordinance. Rent control was abolished in Capitola in 2011.

Whether a park has been owned by a mom-and-pop family for generations or just recently purchased by a company, all our members believe that their communities should be well-managed and properly maintained. A nice, well-kept park and its amenities heighten the quality of life for its homeowners and help to protect the sizable investment they have in their homes. It also increases the value of the mobilehome park. Rent control can threaten this mutually beneficial relationship by limiting the resources available to a parkowner for community enhancements. Lazy J Ranch — the largest and one of the nicest parks in Arcata — will soon complete an estimated $300,000 capital improvement project that will bring a new clubhouse and laundry facilities to the park in 2016. Such expansive and costly projects are rare in rent controlled cities.

Our members are also committed to fair and reasonable rents. And one need not look any further than Arcata’s two largest mobilehome communities — Lazy J Ranch and Town & Country Mobile Villa — to find proof of this commitment. More than two-thirds of all the mobilehome community residents in Arcata live in these two parks, where rents range from a low of $332 to a high of $450. These are some of the lowest mobilehome community rents in all of California — surprising, when you consider the high quality of the two parks and the natural beauty and draw of their location in Arcata, Humboldt County and the North Coast. Several parkowners have also reported having skipped annual increases several times over the years. The most onerous rent control ordinance imaginable could not produce a better result than that which has already been achieved voluntarily by Arcata’s parkowners.

Good, decent, responsible parkowners should not be punished by rent control. Mobilehome park residents should not be burdened by rent control fees. City taxpayers should not have to pay dearly to administer, and to legally defend, an ordinance that is wholly unnecessary and does nothing to preserve affordable housing. WMA and our Arcata members submit that rent control is not the answer to resolving the affordable housing crisis; indeed, we believe it would further exacerbate the problem. We respectfully request that your council forgo rent control and seek other ways of addressing this important public policy issue.

RENT CONTROL FACTS

  • In January 2015, the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee carefully examined the pros and cons of mobilehome park rent control and unanimously voted against recommending its adoption by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.
  • Over the past ten years, 11 Northern California local government jurisdictions — including Ceres, Citrus Heights, Galt, Lake County, Lakeport, Lathrop, Mendocino County, Stanislaus County, Turlock, West Sacramento and Yolo County — considered rent control and rejected it.
  • Over the past five years, three Northern California cities with rent control — Capitola, Benicia and Merced — repealed their ordinances.
  • There are 540 incorporated cities and counties in California; 110 have rent control ordinances; 430 do not.
  • The first mobilehome park rent control ordinance was adopted in Vacaville in 1977; since then, rent control jurisdictions in California have spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars administering their ordinances and defending them in court.

Very truly yours,

DOUG JOHNSON

Senior Regional Representative

Local Government & Public Affairs

WESTERN MANUFACTURED HOUSING COMMUNITIES ASSOCIATION

Northern California & Bay Area Regional Office

1667 Columbus Road

West Sacramento, CA 95691-4902

(916) 374-2702 Office

(916) 374-2703 Facsimile

[email protected] Email

www.wma.org Website

 

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