Lake County >> When a rent stabilization act was enacted in San Rafael County, the Lake County Mobile Home Owners Association took note. The association hopes a version of the San Rafael initiative will be enacted in Lake County, but in order to ensure it’s fit for the area, the homeowner’s association needs a lawyer to adapt it.
So the association organized a People’s Forum yesterday, May 13 at Sterling Shores Estates. Along with singing, food, discussion and a raffle. District 4 County Supervisor Anthony Farrington and District 3 County Supervisor Jim Steele addressed the group. The association was seeking new members, whose dues they planned to use to help pay for the cost of the lawyer.
“We’re calling it the People’s Forum because people with all different kinds of issues will be invited to speak, such as the people from the Lucerne water group,” said Heather Powers of the Mobile Home Owners Association.
Last year, the group brought a different rent control initiative to the county, but the court ruled against putting it on the ballot. “This year we have a better initiative,” Powers claimed. “It is not like the other one at all. It is written by some very excellent lawyers who specialize in the subject.”
Lakeport Lagoons manager Paula Pepper-Duggan felt that the previous year’s initiative failed due to vagueness. “Last year they were talking about the rent control,” she said. “There were so many if, ands or buts about it.”
While Pepper-Duggan hasn’t heard about the Lake County Homeowner’s Association’s desire to adapt the San Rafael law for the county, she said if the details help both owners and residents, it has a chance of passing. “If they come up with something more fair I think it might go, if it protects the owners and residents,” she said.
Steele agreed that an ordinance needs to find the balance between protecting the public, or the parks, and the private mobile home owners. “There have to be rules that buffer those two,” he said.
According to Powers, the San Rafael act should provide this protection. “Our goal now is to raise enough money to pay a lawyer to adapt the initiative to Lake County,” she said. “We’re signing up members and we’re going forward.”
However, Farrington told the group they did not need to hire a lawyer, that he would work with them to draft an ordinance. Farrington has brought rent control to the board of supervisors multiple times over the last decade, but an initiative never went through at a board or county level. The group can use the rent control ordinance Farrington has already drafted, or they can go ahead with their plan to use the San Rafael initiative. He also told the group there are political factors to take into consideration. He urged them to rethink a rent stabilization ordinance that covers people of all ages.
Another possible solution to the problem of increasing rents and fixed incomes is for the people of a specific mobile home park to form a legal Home Owners Association. Once a formal HOA is made, mobile home park residents can buy the park from the landlords and set their own rules. The HOA at Sterling Shores Estates in a strictly social group now, but the members are going forward in the process to become a legal association.
Anyone can sign up for the Home Owners Association, regardless of whether or not they own a mobile home. Powers said that many people who don’t reside in mobile home parks are involved in the group, because they’re concerned about those who do. “Everyone understands how a rent stabilization law in Lake County is needed for mobile home parks,” she said. “Many people either live in a mobile home or have family that live in mobile homes, and they care.”
The entertainer for the afternoon, folk singer Joan Moss, is one such supporter. “Joan Moss has been working with our group,” Powers said, adding that Moss does not own a mobile home. “She is one of our members because she’s interested in the issues. She cares about the issue. A lot of people care about the issue.”
Rent stabilization is a hot button issue for many people, homeowner or not, because of the possible effects of upping the cost of rent. “Mobile home owners live in mobile home parks which are owned by a landlord, many of who are imposing predatory rent increases to people in mobile homes, which are not really mobile and people are losing their homes,” Powers said.
Rent stabilization is an important cause to Steele. His sister lives in a mobile home park. He told the crowd that she struggles to pay an increasing rent, but cannot move out of her home. This is a common concern for many mobile home owners, and the reason behind the push for rent control in Lake County.
Farrington understands this concern. People may buy a mobile home, move into a park and “they can be held hostage in terms of the rent,” he said.
While each mobile home park is different, Pepper-Duggan said that Lakeport Lagoons tries to keep their rent increases low. Every 18 months to two years they implement an increase of just over two percent. It’s never more than the CPI (Consumer Price Index). In July, Lakeport Lagoons will increase their rent by $16.“Our owners care about our park here,” Pepper-Duggan said. “Our owners try to keep it low because they know our residents are on a fixed income.”
Pepper-Duggan said she’s heard of other parks increasing their rent significantly, so much so that some residents have moved to Lakeport Lagoons. “When you jack it up $75 to $100, I can see why they’d want stabilization,” she said.
However, according to Pepper-Duggan, there are possible negative consequences of implementing rent control. One consequence could be that people may be deterred from buying parks in Lake County. “There’s been other communities that have done rent control and then what happens to that community?” Pepper-Duggan asked. “I’ve heard various things.”
Though Farrington is a proponent of rent stabilization, he has concerns about reducing rent too much. He said mobile home parks do not want to make property so affordable that it creates problems in the community. He worries that extremely affordable property could bring predators into the county.
Farrington also worries about the value of real estate when rents are too low. “You want to have affordability but you want to have appreciation of property values,” he said.
Another consequence could be a large rent hike before rent stabilization goes into effect. Parks may increase their rent by an allowed amount, possibly 10 or 15 percent, because they know they may not be able to modify their rent for another five years. “That’s a detriment to the people,” Pepper-Duggan said. “Their rent’s going to be increased.” She added that the owners of Lakeport Lagoons would rather see a gradual rent increase.
Lakeport Lagoons examines a number of factors before increasing rent, including the cost of living and property taxes. “We’re fair to our residents,” said Pepper-Duggan.
Jennifer Gruenke can be reached at 900-2019.