Park buyouts threaten affordable housing

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first_imgWhile Santa Clarita has rent-control protection for the 1,545 mobile home spaces in the city, mobile home parks are mostly regulated by the state. And state law allows for a park owner to evade city-mandated rent-control protections after it sells a single lot to a homeowner in the process of turning over a park to residents. During the years it would take for a park to become completely resident-owned, state protections would tie rent increases for low-income residents to the Consumer Price Index, which would usually amount to no more than a 3percent increase. But those making more than the low-income limit, which is $55,450 for a family of four, would gradually lose rent-control protections. That worries many California cities and counties. “I think our biggest concern is losing a stock of affordable housing,” said Erin Moore-Lay, administrative analyst for Santa Clarita. “It’s important for us to have affordable housing for the people in our community who need it. And as we lose (rent control in) these parks, it’s hard to replace that stock of affordable housing.” About 700,000 California residents live in mobile home parks, and almost all of them own their home but rent their space. At least a dozen of the 4,822 mobile and manufactured home parks in the state are in the process of converting to resident ownership. Critics of the process now in place for converting privately owned parks to resident ownership say that a park owner who proposes converting a park has the upper hand, especially over moderate-income residents. One of those critics is Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, who testified last month before a state Senate committee on mobile homes. “Imagine if I’m negotiating with you and I say, `You can buy at my price or watch your rents go up,”‘ Bennett said to the committee. “Or how different would that be if it would be, `You buy at my price or you can stay at your local rent control law.’ That would be a much more fair negotiation.” But critics of the conversion process and mobile home park owners agree on one thing: Residents benefit when they own their own space. Attorney Richard Close, whose firm represents Caravilla and other mobile home parks, spoke to those benefits when he testified before the Senate committee, urging legislators to increase funding to a California low-interest loan program that helps mobile home residents buy their spaces. “Residents don’t want to be tenants; they want to control their park,” Close said. The mobile home that Courtney, the retired secretary, lives in at Caravilla has wind chimes hanging from a beam below the roof and more wind chimes hanging inside between the living room and kitchen. Courtney said she would like to buy the land under her mobile home, saying it would simplify her life to make one payment a month instead of two – the loan payment on her home and the rent she pays to Caravilla. With a three-bedroom 1995 mobile home, Courtney said she pays about $1,200 a month including utilities. The roughly $600 a month she pays to rent her space is about the same as other Caravilla residents’ rent. Resident Doug Fraser, 48, a maintenance worker who led the fight against the $82 rent increase, said he would be interested in buying. “I support it if I can get it appraised correctly,” Fraser said. “But some of these people (residents), their credit is bad and they’re not looking long-term, so they may not enjoy it.” Newport Pacific is only beginning the process of converting its park; it has not even conducted the state-mandated survey of residents to find out what they think of the proposal. “Even though the residents don’t have veto power, we do try to make sure: Is everyone provided for? How can this be a win-win?” said Susy Forbath, a paralegal with the law firm representing Newport Pacific. alex.dobuzinskis@dailynews.com (661) 257-5253 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! At Caravilla park, located at 18035 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country, residents say they might want to take Newport Pacific up on its offer and buy their spaces instead of continuing to rent. But they are wary, not knowing what the asking price would be. Some residents are also wary of rent increases if they choose not to buy. Six months ago, Newport Pacific tried to force an $82 monthly rent increase, which would have amounted to about a 15percent increase for most residents. After residents protested and asked the city to intervene under its rent-control ordinance, the rent increase was cut to slightly more than 5percent. “I like it here,” said resident Mardel Courtney, 72, a retired secretary who moved to Santa Clarita after her husband died and finds the dry weather is good for her arthritis. “I’d hate to have to move away because of the rent going so high,” she said. CANYON COUNTRY – From the outside it looks like any other mobile home park, with residents ambling along quiet lanes between tightly packed residences. But the 86-unit Caravilla mobile home park could soon be quite different from Santa Clarita’s other parks. The park owner, Irvine-based Newport Pacific, could be among the first to give residents the option to buy the land under their homes. In the process, it would also scrap city rent-control protections, hurting residents who want to keep renting but earn too much to qualify for state protection. As in other cities throughout California, mobile home parks provide a rare stock of affordable housing in Santa Clarita, especially for the working poor and seniors. But since mobile home residents own their homes but rent their spaces, they can find themselves in a bind, especially if a developer wants to pave over their park and build houses. last_img