Rene Morales Lake County Record-Bee 01/31/2007

Westwind Mobile Park homeowners received notice this week that the park they rent space from had been sold. In a three-page letter, Resident Owned Park Inc. (ROP) informed the homeowners that they have entered into a purchase contract and plan to close escrow by mid-February 2007.

According to its Web site, ROP is a California nonprofit housing corporation based in Sacramento. Its main purpose is to purchase and manage mobilehome parks to preserve affordable housing.

So why are residents concerned? According to residents of Westwind, the rent for each space in the park will be $730. Right now, space rent ranges from $480 to $525.        The resulting increase is almost 40 percent.

Approximately 12 residents gathered Tuesday, Jan. 23, in front of park resident Betty Martin’s home to discuss the rent increase. According to them, approximately one-third of the residents in the park are on fixed incomes and cannot afford the increase.

Residents expressed concern that they may lose their homes. “We feel powerless right now,” said Martin. “Where will we go?”

According to the notice, the rental increase is necessary to pay for the “debt service, operation and maintenance of the park.” The notice included provisions that entail a 30-year transferable lease option for residents. After the rent increase is set, future increases will be no more than 3 percent per year.

According to the notice, “This restriction and limitation is more beneficial than some mobile home rent control ordinances offered by some cities and counties.” If the new owners exercise their rights to implement a 3 percent increase every year for the next five years, space rent will be $846.27 per month. In 10 years, this amount will increase to $981.05 per month.

According to Social Security, nearly one-third of the retiree population receives their income from this source. Its Web site states that the average maximum monthly award for this benefit is $1,007. Beginning in January, Social Security benefits increased 3.3 percent. The government calculates the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) each year based on inflation in the overall economy. But inflation for seniors has been higher than that for the overall population in recent years, in large part because health care costs account for a bigger portion of seniors’ expenses.

“We are at the mercy of the park owners,” said Anita Sombs of the local Mobile Home Task Force. “We are barely making ends meet as it is.” Rising park rent costs leave homeowners with limited options.    According to residents, most of their homes are unsellable. (Continued on Page 3, Clear Lake)            (Clear Lake, from Page 1) Most potential buyers are deterred by the homes’ age and rising park costs.

The cost to move mobile homes can be as much as $30,000-$40,000 per unit. The home’s age can actually prevent it from being allowed into another park. Because the home was already in the park before new laws were passed, it may remain there due to it being grandfathered in.

Even if the home could be moved, it is likely that the structure would not fare well in the move.

A Mobile Home Task Force meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. today, Wednesday, Jan. 31, at the Clearlake Senior/Community Center. For more information, please call Anita Sombs at 263-8736.

Contact Rene Morales at rmorales@record-bee.com.