News

Mountain View poised to pass mobile home rent control next week

Mountain View's mobile home parks could soon be protected by rent control. Photo by Sammy Dallal

Looking to protect residents at risk of displacement across the city's six mobile home parks, the Mountain View City Council is set to vote next week on whether to extend rent control to mobile homes.

The ordinance, which will come before the council on Sept. 14, would cap annual rent increases at the rate of inflation and limit how much park owners can jack up the rent when a tenant leaves. Mobile home residents have demanded that they receive the same protections as apartment renters in Mountain View, fighting political and legal battles for rent control over the last four years.

Mountain View's 1,100 mobile homes have long been considered a bastion of affordable housing, attracting residents who want to live in the Bay Area but cannot afford the exorbitant cost of living in the area. Many of those mobile home residents are seniors and people with disabilities as well as families working service-sector jobs.

But mobile homes are excluded from the city's existing rent control law, the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), and residents fear that some park owners are taking aggressive action to increase the rent each year. Mobile home owners who rent space at the park, as well as those renting the mobile homes themselves, have both reported worrying rent hikes in recent years that could soon oust low-income families.

With space rent intrinsically tied to mobile home values, residents have also worried that unfettered rent hikes could cause their home equity to plunge.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

So what's in the upcoming ordinance? City officials say mobile home rent control will align closely with CSFRA protections, capping annual rent increases based on the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI had previously wobbled between 3.4% and 3.6% until COVID-19 hit, which caused inflation to plummet to 1.6% this year.

The ordinance would also allow park owners to petition for higher rent increases if they can prove the property isn't earning a fair rate of return, and would give park owners a way to pass the costs of certain capital improvements on to tenants above and beyond the annual rent increase.

Where the mobile home rent control ordinance differs from the CSFRA is vacancy control, which puts limits on how much the rent can increase once a tenant moves out. Unlike apartments, which can pop up to market rate once they're vacant, increases on rent for mobile homes will be capped at 10% for the future residents.

Originally, city officials drafted the ordinance with narrow language that would only apply to mobile home owners who rent space at the park, meaning those who rent their home would not benefit at all. The move elicited concerns from both sides: renters worried they would be left behind, while park owners complained that mobile home owners could simultaneously pay less for space rent while renting their home out at market rate.

The city has since changed course. City Attorney Krishan Chopra said in a statement Tuesday that the ordinance coming before the council next week will apply to both mobile home owners and renters, including annual rent caps.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

"Although the preliminary draft ordinance framework shared with stakeholders in June only applied to space rent, based on feedback received during and following the stakeholder meetings, staff updated its recommendations to include all mobile home residents in the Ordinance and to provide an equal level of rent stabilization for all tenants," Chopra said.

The Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance has come out in support of the bulk of the ordinance, but pointed out that similar protections in Santa Clara County cap rent increases at less than the rate of inflation. In a letter to the council last week, the group advocated for rent caps at 50% of the rate of the CPI.

Park owners have long opposed the city's efforts to draft a rent control ordinance, instead arguing in favor of a long-term memorandum of understanding (MOU) between park owners and residents that spells out future rent increases and price caps when there's a vacancy. They pointed to Sunnyvale, which passed an MOU agreement in July that was largely seen as a compromise between tenants and park owners. Park owners in Sunnyvale who fail to sign on will be subject to a future, yet undrafted rent control ordinance.

Park owners say Sunnyvale's approach is much better than what Mountain View is slated to pass next week. Doug Johnson, senior regional representative for the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association, said the MOU was a "groundbreaking" agreement that brought together park owners and residents in order to preserve affordability while keeping parks sustainable.

"The Mountain View City Council should consider this collaborative approach rather than impose a one-sided rent control ordinance," Johnson said. "Rent control divides communities, invites costly litigation and consumes enormous amounts of city staff time. A MOU is a much better choice for Mountain View."

One park owner in Mountain View sought to test the waters with an MOU ahead of the council's vote next September. Management at the Santiago Villa mobile home park in North Bayshore sent a letter to tenants in January stating it would commit to a long-term agreement 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 agreement was put forward as an alternative to rent control, with a killswitch in the event that rent control was ever passed. And rather than wait for the council's decision next week, Santiago Villa's ownership has already tossed out the agreement due to the passage 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 parkowner's ten year plan was offered as an alternative to rent control, the parkowner is hereby withdrawing the commitments ... including the rent subsidy program for low income tenants," according to an Aug. 26 letter from Santiago Villa management.

The letter goes on to say that the park owner, John Vidovich, must now consider "all" options in response to rent control, including whether to sell the park or remove homes from the rental housing market.

A majority of the City Council last year voted in favor of enacting some type of rent stabilization ordinance for mobile homes, and in March sought to fast-track the development of an ordinance. Two council members, councilwomen Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak, have previously advocated for the MOU framework sought by park owners in lieu of rent control, provided that the park owners and tenants can agree.

A front row seat to local high school sports.

Check out our new newsletter, the Playbook.

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Stay informed on important city government news. Sign up for our FREE daily Express newsletter.

Mountain View poised to pass mobile home rent control next week

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 7, 2021, 1:07 pm

Looking to protect residents at risk of displacement across the city's six mobile home parks, the Mountain View City Council is set to vote next week on whether to extend rent control to mobile homes.

The ordinance, which will come before the council on Sept. 14, would cap annual rent increases at the rate of inflation and limit how much park owners can jack up the rent when a tenant leaves. Mobile home residents have demanded that they receive the same protections as apartment renters in Mountain View, fighting political and legal battles for rent control over the last four years.

Mountain View's 1,100 mobile homes have long been considered a bastion of affordable housing, attracting residents who want to live in the Bay Area but cannot afford the exorbitant cost of living in the area. Many of those mobile home residents are seniors and people with disabilities as well as families working service-sector jobs.

But mobile homes are excluded from the city's existing rent control law, the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), and residents fear that some park owners are taking aggressive action to increase the rent each year. Mobile home owners who rent space at the park, as well as those renting the mobile homes themselves, have both reported worrying rent hikes in recent years that could soon oust low-income families.

With space rent intrinsically tied to mobile home values, residents have also worried that unfettered rent hikes could cause their home equity to plunge.

So what's in the upcoming ordinance? City officials say mobile home rent control will align closely with CSFRA protections, capping annual rent increases based on the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI had previously wobbled between 3.4% and 3.6% until COVID-19 hit, which caused inflation to plummet to 1.6% this year.

The ordinance would also allow park owners to petition for higher rent increases if they can prove the property isn't earning a fair rate of return, and would give park owners a way to pass the costs of certain capital improvements on to tenants above and beyond the annual rent increase.

Where the mobile home rent control ordinance differs from the CSFRA is vacancy control, which puts limits on how much the rent can increase once a tenant moves out. Unlike apartments, which can pop up to market rate once they're vacant, increases on rent for mobile homes will be capped at 10% for the future residents.

Originally, city officials drafted the ordinance with narrow language that would only apply to mobile home owners who rent space at the park, meaning those who rent their home would not benefit at all. The move elicited concerns from both sides: renters worried they would be left behind, while park owners complained that mobile home owners could simultaneously pay less for space rent while renting their home out at market rate.

The city has since changed course. City Attorney Krishan Chopra said in a statement Tuesday that the ordinance coming before the council next week will apply to both mobile home owners and renters, including annual rent caps.

"Although the preliminary draft ordinance framework shared with stakeholders in June only applied to space rent, based on feedback received during and following the stakeholder meetings, staff updated its recommendations to include all mobile home residents in the Ordinance and to provide an equal level of rent stabilization for all tenants," Chopra said.

The Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance has come out in support of the bulk of the ordinance, but pointed out that similar protections in Santa Clara County cap rent increases at less than the rate of inflation. In a letter to the council last week, the group advocated for rent caps at 50% of the rate of the CPI.

Park owners have long opposed the city's efforts to draft a rent control ordinance, instead arguing in favor of a long-term memorandum of understanding (MOU) between park owners and residents that spells out future rent increases and price caps when there's a vacancy. They pointed to Sunnyvale, which passed an MOU agreement in July that was largely seen as a compromise between tenants and park owners. Park owners in Sunnyvale who fail to sign on will be subject to a future, yet undrafted rent control ordinance.

Park owners say Sunnyvale's approach is much better than what Mountain View is slated to pass next week. Doug Johnson, senior regional representative for the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association, said the MOU was a "groundbreaking" agreement that brought together park owners and residents in order to preserve affordability while keeping parks sustainable.

"The Mountain View City Council should consider this collaborative approach rather than impose a one-sided rent control ordinance," Johnson said. "Rent control divides communities, invites costly litigation and consumes enormous amounts of city staff time. A MOU is a much better choice for Mountain View."

One park owner in Mountain View sought to test the waters with an MOU ahead of the council's vote next September. Management at the Santiago Villa mobile home park in North Bayshore sent a letter to tenants in January stating it would commit to a long-term agreement 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 agreement was put forward as an alternative to rent control, with a killswitch in the event that rent control was ever passed. And rather than wait for the council's decision next week, Santiago Villa's ownership has already tossed out the agreement due to the passage 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 parkowner's ten year plan was offered as an alternative to rent control, the parkowner is hereby withdrawing the commitments ... including the rent subsidy program for low income tenants," according to an Aug. 26 letter from Santiago Villa management.

The letter goes on to say that the park owner, John Vidovich, must now consider "all" options in response to rent control, including whether to sell the park or remove homes from the rental housing market.

A majority of the City Council last year voted in favor of enacting some type of rent stabilization ordinance for mobile homes, and in March sought to fast-track the development of an ordinance. Two council members, councilwomen Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak, have previously advocated for the MOU framework sought by park owners in lieu of rent control, provided that the park owners and tenants can agree.

Comments

Dan Waylonis
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Sep 7, 2021 at 3:10 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Sep 7, 2021 at 3:10 pm

Rent control doesn't work. There are plenty of cases (MV, NYC) where it distorts the market for housing into unintended outcomes: renters don't leave, new renters pay much more, maintenance is deferred, etc. If nothing else, go to Google.com and type "does rent control work". Read some links.


Alex
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Sep 7, 2021 at 3:46 pm
Alex, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Sep 7, 2021 at 3:46 pm

I’m not sure if people don’t see the long term consequences of these policies or if they do but they are avoiding them because they want to enrich themselves?

Have you ever wondered why the feudal system collapsed?

Aren’t we repeating exactly the same mistake by allowing the rent system to continuously expand?

In the long term, this system creates a small elite of wealthy property owners and a large number of non-property owning renters who are completely dependent upon the elites. Just like the feudal system.

Rent control is an attractive short term drug to numb the pain but in the long term it will drive consolidation into a small number of super wealthy landlords (aka feudal lords) like Black Rock.

This will destabilize society.

A better solution for long term stability would be to allow tenant rent payments to become investments in the property so that they can become owners of the property.

Growing the base of property owners stabilizes society and creates the solid foundation for cooperation necessary for continued innovation.

The community that does this will prosper while its neighboring communities are destabilizing.


Longview
Slater
on Sep 7, 2021 at 3:52 pm
Longview, Slater
on Sep 7, 2021 at 3:52 pm

So? New home owners pay more for homes than someone who bought 30 years ago. We can live with this, and we can live with current rents for a new renter being higher than they were in the past. No one thinks homeowners staying for a long time is bad. Why is it bad if renters stay for a similar long time? And finally, when landlords can only evict for a valid reason, tenants finally feel secure enough to request needed repairs. MV's rent control is not a distortion or a problem - it is a sensible benefit to our community.


Doug Johnson
Registered user
another community
on Sep 7, 2021 at 10:04 pm
Doug Johnson, another community
Registered user
on Sep 7, 2021 at 10:04 pm

Recently, the Sunnyvale City Council unanimously approved a comprehensive MOU for all of its mobilehome parks. The entire community — councilmembers, parkowners, park residents and city staff — worked together on this groundbreaking agreement that will protect mobilehome park affordability and sustainability for decades. The Mountain View City Council should consider this collaborative approach rather than impose a one-sided rent control ordinance. Rent control divides communities, invites costly litigation and consumes enormous amounts of city staff time. A MOU is a much better choice for Mountain View.


Polomom
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Sep 8, 2021 at 10:41 am
Polomom, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 10:41 am


MV please learn from other cities!


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2021 at 12:18 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2021 at 12:18 pm

MOU is non binding. A law is binding.
A memorandum of understanding is an agreement between two or more parties outlined in a formal document. It is not legally binding but signals the willingness of the parties to move forward with a contract.

comparing Apples and Marmalade / not even Applesause


Mountain View Resident
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2021 at 2:05 pm
Mountain View Resident , Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2021 at 2:05 pm

MOU are cute agreements with no mechanism of enforcement. Landlords like MOUs and love painting themselves as victims, panicking at the slightness indication of lost revenue. There is no reasoning or collaboration with landlords; they need enforcement mechanisms laid down by a higher authority.


Magster
Registered user
Castro City
on Sep 10, 2021 at 9:03 am
Magster, Castro City
Registered user
on Sep 10, 2021 at 9:03 am

At Mission Bay senior mobile home community in San Leandro- they have few mixed in higher-end manufared homes - they charge $1,400 month for rent now.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.