Landlords, tenants take sides on rent control for mobile home parks

Landlords, tenants take sides on rent control for mobile home parks

A statewide proposition on the June ballot could hurt an estimated 120,000 Riverside and San Bernardino county residents living in mobile home parks, opponents of the measure say.

Prop. 98 would prohibit passing any new rent control ordinances for mobile home parks, effective from Jan. 1, 2007. Rent control is a ceiling on rents set by the government, usually no more than 5 percent annually.

Supporters of the proposition argue residents currently living in mobile home parks with rent control, including about 60,000 in 315 parks in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, would not be hurt because they will remain covered by rent control.

Country Lake Mobile Home resident Ivan McDermott, of San Jacinto, is concerned that a proposition on the June election ballot could eliminate rent control for mobile home parks statewide.

Supporters don’t want new rent control ordinances because they prohibit mobile home park owners from getting the fair market value from their property and limit owners’ ability to maintain and improve their parks.

“These park owners are just, basically, hostage to these ordinances,” said Sheila Dey, executive director of the Western Manufactured Housing Association, which represents owners of 1,800 mobile home parks in California.

Opponents of the measure say mobile home residents covered by rent control would be hurt because their home value would plummet when they sell without rent control assurance for the new owner. Those not covered by rent control would be impacted because the threat of seeking rent control keeps rent increases down, opponents said.

“Without rent control, I just feel we would have nothing. No protection,” said Donna Matthews, the Riverside County representative for the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League, which advocates for mobile home owners. She lives in Plantation on the Lake mobile home park in Calimesa.

Broader Reach

Prop. 98 has implications beyond mobile home parks.

Supporters say it restores private property protections in California.

The measure is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 that said the government could use eminent domain to seize property from an unwilling seller and give it to another private entity, said Marko Mlikotin, executive director of the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights.

The alliance sponsored the measure with the California Farm Bureau Federation and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Opponents of the measure are billing it as a landlords’ “hidden agenda scheme” to eliminate renter protections.

They prefer Prop. 99, which will also be on the June ballot.

Prop. 99 provides some of the private property protection that Prop. 98 provides, but doesn’t strip rent control protections, opponents said.

In addition to mobile home parks, Prop, 98 would also impact apartments with rent control.

Nearly 1 million people statewide live in rent-controlled apartments, the vast majority in Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Michael Moynagh, senior policy analyst with the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

Palm Springs is believed to be the only city in Riverside or San Bernardino counties with rent-controlled apartments. Voters approved the rent-control ordinance in 1980, but it was voted down in 1994, said Marina Karas, a city housing programs assistant. She said 61 apartments remain grandfathered in.

Residents Vs. Owners

Statewide, there are about 4,750 mobile home parks that house about 800,000 people, said John Tennyson, a legislative consultant for the Senate Select Committee on Manufactured Homes and Communities.

About 10 to 15 percent of those people are in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, Tennyson said.

In the San Jacinto Valley — which includes Hemet, San Jacinto and several surrounding unincorporated communities — there are 58 mobile home parks, said Hank Schmitz, 78, president of the Valley Mobilehome Residents Association. He lives in Mountain View Mobile Home Park in Valle Vista, just east of Hemet.

Many residents in those parks, where monthly rent prices range from $250 to $800, oppose Prop. 98.

Ivan McDermott, 79, is among them. He and his wife Carol, 64, moved to Country Lake Mobile Home Park, just outside San Jacinto. They are covered by rent control. Their monthly rent is $383.

Because they moved to the park eight years ago, they wouldn’t lose rent control unless they left the park. Still, they are concerned because money is tight.

Carol McDermott said she took her Social Security retirement payments four years early at a penalty so she and her husband “could live halfway decent,” as he put it. That means paying their utility bills, dinner out once a month and a weekly bingo game at the nearby Soboba Casino.

There are similar concerns in Yucaipa, which has rent control for the 41 mobile home parks housing about 6,500 people, said Len Tyler, who lives in Yucaipa Village Mobile Home Estates and is chairman of its residents association.

Tyler, 68, said he worries that eliminating rent control means rents will increase and mobile home park residents will be priced out.

Jim Joffe disagrees.

He is president of Yorba Linda-based J&H Asset Property Management, Inc., which manages 70 mobile home parks, including 40 in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

He opposes rent control because, with it, he doesn’t get fair market value for the property he manages. That takes away incentive to take care of the parks.

He also said rent control creates an antagonistic feeling between park residents and park owners and managers.

“It makes it more difficult to have that, ‘Gosh, I appreciate my customer attitude,” Joffe said. “Because you don’t feel like you’re getting a fair shake.”

Reach Sean Nealon at 951-368-9458 or snealon (at) PE (dot) com

Covered by Rent Control

About 60,000 people living in about 315 mobile home parks in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are covered by a rent control ordinance. Parks in unincorporated Riverside County and the following cities are covered:

Riverside County: Beaumont, Cathedral City, Hemet, Indio, Moreno Valley, Palm Desert, Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage

San Bernardino County: Chino, Colton, Fontana, Montclair, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino, Upland and Yucaipa

By SEAN NEALON

Source: Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League

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