Seeking to protect residents at risk of moving into the city’s six mobile home parks, Mountain View city council is expected to vote next week on whether to extend rent controls to mobile homes.
The order, which will go to council on September 14, would cap annual rent increases at the rate of inflation and limit the amount park owners can increase rent when a tenant leaves. Mobile home residents have demanded the same protections as apartment renters in Mountain View, waging political and legal battles for rent control over the past four years.
Mountain View’s 1,100 mobile homes have long been seen as a bastion of affordable housing, attracting residents who want to live in the Bay Area but can’t afford the exorbitant cost of living in the area. Many of these mobile home residents are seniors and people with disabilities as well as families working in the service industry.
But mobile homes are excluded from the city’s existing rent control law, the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), and residents fear some park owners will take aggressive action to increase rent each year. Mobile home owners who rent out space in the park, as well as those who rent the mobile homes themselves, have both reported worrying rent increases in recent years that could soon crowd out low-income families.
As space rent is intrinsically linked to the value of mobile homes, residents are also concerned that unlimited rent increases will cause their home’s equity to plummet.
So what’s in the upcoming prescription? City officials say mobile home rent controls will align closely with CSFRA protections, capping annual rent increases based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI had previously hovered between 3.4% and 3.6% until COVID-19 hit, which brought inflation down to 1.6% this year.
The ordinance would also allow park owners to ask for higher rent increases if they can prove that the property is not generating a fair rate of return, and would give park owners a way to pass the costs of certain improvements into capital on tenants beyond. the annual rent increase.
Where the Mobile Home Rent Control Ordinance differs from the CSFRA is vacancy control, which limits the increase in rent once a tenant moves out. Unlike apartments, which can be displayed at market price once vacant, mobile home rent increases will be capped at 10% for future residents.
Originally, city officials drafted the ordinance in narrow language that would only apply to mobile home owners who rent out space in the park, meaning those who rent their homes don’t would not benefit at all. The move sparked concerns on both sides: tenants feared they would be left behind, while park owners complained that mobile home owners could simultaneously pay less for the rent of the space while renting out. their home at market rate.
The city has since changed course. City attorney Krishan Chopra said in a statement Tuesday that the order presented to council next week would apply to both owners and tenants of mobile homes, including annual rent caps.
“Although the draft ordinance framework shared with stakeholders in June only applied to the rent of spaces, based on feedback received during and after stakeholder meetings, staff put update its recommendations to include all mobile home residents in the ordinance and to provide an equal level of rent. stabilization for all tenants, ”said Chopra.
The Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance came out in favor of most of the ordinance, but noted that similar protections in Santa Clara County, capped rents increase less than the rate of inflation. In a letter to city council last week, the group called for a rent cap at 50% of the CPI rate.
Park owners have long opposed the city’s efforts to draft a rent control ordinance, arguing instead for a long-term memorandum of understanding between park owners and residents that spells out the future rent increases and price caps in case of vacancy. They pointed to Sunnyvale, which adopted a memorandum of understanding in July that was widely seen as a compromise between tenants and park owners. Park owners in Sunnyvale who do not register will be subject to a future rent control ordinance, which has yet to be drafted.
A park owner in Mountain View has sought to test the waters with a memorandum of understanding ahead of a council vote next September. Management of the Santiago Villa mobile home park in North Bayshore sent a letter to tenants in January stating that they would commit to a long-term deal that includes annual rent caps, a rent subsidy program for low income tenants and a commitment to keep the park open for at least 10 years.
But the deal was touted as an alternative to rent control, with a kill switch in case rent control is enacted. And rather than wait for the council’s decision next week, Santiago Villa’s property has already rejected the deal due to the passing of AB 978 in July. The law closely mirrors statewide rent control for apartments, which caps annual rent increases at 5% plus the rate of inflation.
“As the park owner’s 10-year plan has been proposed as an alternative to rent control, the park owner hereby withdraws the commitments … including the rental subsidy program for low-income tenants,” according to a letter from the August 26 from the management of Santiago Villa.
The letter goes on to say that park owner John Vidovich must now consider “all” options in response to rent controls, including whether to sell the park or remove homes from the rental housing market.
A majority of the city council voted last year in favour pass some sort of rent stabilization order for mobile homes and, in March, sought to expedite the development of an order. Two board members, Councilors Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak, have previously argued for the MOU framework that park owners are looking for instead of rent control, provided both landlords and tenants of the park can hear each other.