For residents who rent mobile homes in Mountain View, earning the protections of local tenants is going to be an uphill battle.
Although they rent their homes as an apartment or condo, they were excluded from the 2016 Rent Control Act approved by voters in Mountain View. Yet, bizarrely, five years later, as the city seeks to craft a second rent control law designed specifically for mobile homes, families who rent in Mountain View’s six mobile home parks are once again going to be left out. .
City officials revealed the plans at two community meetings last month, setting out the framework for mobile home rent controls that would limit annual rent increases and impose protections against just cause evictions. Mountain View city council members agreed in March to pursue some sort of rent stabilization order for mobile home residents, who have rallied and fought aggressively for rent controls in recent years.
The ordinance is similar to the city’s Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), limiting rent increases based on the regional inflation rate while allowing park owners to seek larger rent increases in order to ‘get a “fair rate of return” on the property. There are also special perks that set the new SCFRA measure apart, including a vacancy control provision that limits rent increases for new tenants rather than resetting the cost to the market rate.
But for many mobile home residents, the proposed ordinance is insufficient and presents a glaring drawback. The law would only apply to mobile home owners who rent out space under their homes and would not apply to those who rent mobile homes themselves. Renters say mobile home rentals were an affordable alternative to expensive apartments in the area, but rent increases have pushed the cost above $ 3,000 per month in some cases.
The situation puts those who rent mobile homes in a strange place, receiving neither the benefits of a mobile home owner nor a tenant elsewhere in the city – a narrow blind spot that leaves them vulnerable to huge increases in income. rent.
“They’re in a bit of limbo,” resident Molly Clancy said at the June 24 community meeting. “Only the space rent is included but not the coach rent, but they are not covered by CSFRA. It’s a really terrible place.”
The exclusion of mobile home tenants is due to a perceived legal conflict with, ironically, the CSFRA itself. City attorney Krishan Chopra and the city-hired law firm say the city’s existing rent control law contains a list of homes exempt from tenant protection, including all detached buildings containing a single residential unit. Chopra said the ordinance is currently being drafted to apply closely to the rent of premises to avoid a potential conflict with the SCFRA.
Adding to the conflict, the Rental Housing Committee (RHC) – responsible for overseeing the city’s rent control program – specifically exempted mobile homes from rent control, which was found to be legally sound by an appeals court. at the end of last year.
“The RHC has already found that mobile homes are excluded from the provisions of the CSFRA,” said Eric Philips, partner at the law firm Burke, Williams & Sorensen. “This is why the council is using its authority under the (city) charter to regulate the rents for mobile home spaces. We are not proposing to deal with individual coach rentals.”
This stance has surprised mobile home residents, especially after RHC explicitly told council that any future mobile home rent stabilization order should cover all residents living in mobile home parks, including landlords and owners. tenants. By omitting tenants, the law would open the door to mobile home rentals at market rates, both by single-detached homeowners and park owners who have purchased homes on the property.
Greg Evans, whose company operates mobile home parks across the region, also criticized the decision to exclude tenants. Park owners would be burdened with an annual space rental cap under the new rent control law, but individual mobile home owners could turn around and rent their own units to any price – what he described as unfair enrichment. and a transfer of wealth.
“What steps is the city going to take to ensure that residents do not take unfair advantage of a rent control ordinance?” Evans asked.
In a stakeholder meeting with mobile home park owners on June 23, many initially pushed back on the need for rent control. Doug Johnson, a representative for the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association, suggested the city should turn the tide and instead pursue a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) negotiated between residents and park owners. The process avoids animosity between the two sides, Johnson said, and allows both sides to make concessions in good faith.
He said the town of Sunnyvale, which is pursuing a memorandum of understanding instead of rent stabilization, is a better example of what Mountain View could do.
“I would just compare the efforts of this city – and the efforts of everyone involved – to what Mountain View is doing, where it’s all about rent control, rent control, rent control.”
Anthony Rodriguez, a lawyer representing the owner of the Santiago Villa park in Mountain View, said rent controls risked eroding a 10-year memorandum of understanding proposed by the park that would voluntarily cap rents and even launch a program rent subsidies for low-income tenants. Rodriguez said the deal had been in place since January, but it was entirely dependent on breaching rent controls.
âIf rent control were to go through, I guess it would replace what my client had proposed and the rent credit program and everything in between would be scrapped,â he said.
The stakeholder meeting with the mobile home residents the next day had an entirely different content. There, speakers insisted that mobile homes should have been covered by SCFRA from the start and that a 10% vacancy control rate was starting at the high end of similar control measures. rents.
Santiago Villa resident Tim Larson urged residents to come together and express the desire that mobile home owners and tenants be protected by rent controls, whether through the pending order. city ââor a new sister ordinance.
The rent control law is expected to be submitted to Mountain View city council on September 14. If enacted, it would bring rents for covered residents back to March 16, 2021, when council officially decided to continue rent control for mobile homes.