Voters to decide on mobile-home rent control

Huntington Beach will allow voters to decide whether the city should amend its charter to allow rent control in mobile-home parks.

Should the ballot measure pass in the Nov. 4 election, it would allow City Council members to draft an ordinance to regulate the city's 18 mobile-home parks with a goal of stabilizing rents for senior citizens and veterans.

The item was introduced during the July 21 council meeting by members Dave Sullivan and Jim Katapodis, who proposed capping annual rent increases for park residents whose monthly rent was more than one-third of their monthly income. The proposal also would have restricted park owners from raising rent by more than 6 percent annually or by the local Consumer Price Index, whichever was higher.

But during a special meeting Monday, Councilwoman Jill Hardy was concerned that the city was rushing into the issue. She created a substitute motion to make the ballot language general, asking voters to decide only whether the city should amend its charter.

"The next council … will have a chance to meet with city staff, get a fiscal analysis, find out if there's other things that can be done, study this issue and write an ordinance that affects the people that we want it to affect, the people that need the help the most and doesn't do anything else," Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw said.

Hardy's motion passed, 4-3, with Sullivan, Councilman Joe Carchio and Mayor Matthew Harper opposed.

Sullivan used a football analogy to compare his proposed amendment with Hardy's substitute motion.

"We're on the 10-yard line, we're only behind by two points and we're choosing to punt instead of kicking a field goal," he said.

For several months, Pacific Mobile Home Park residents complained to the city of drastic rent increases being imposed on them this year. Diane Atkins said her rent was increased by 62 percent in a month.

Other residents said they have tried to negotiate leases with the park owners, to no avail.

"We have tried on numerous occasions to sit down and get a long-term lease," Randy Wells said. "As I said in the last meeting, we were continually put off. We were promised it by Feb. 15. We continually asked for it and it was never provided."

Members of the Houser family, who own and operate Rancho Del Rey Mobile Estates, said they are against rent control, explaining that they have been responsibly raising rents and negotiating with residents.

"When we find out that a resident is having financial difficulties, we give them information on all the assistance programs that are available," Chris Houser said.

Carchio said he fears the ballot measure will fail and put senior and veteran mobile-home park residents at a disadvantage if they decide to negotiate leases with their park owners.

"I don't think that this is well-thought-out at all," he said. "I think that what's going to happen is that we're going to lose at the ballot box. When we lose at the ballot box, this is going to be devastating for our seniors, our veterans, the people that we really were trying to help."

Harper said Huntington Beach already decided rent control's fate in mobile-home parks in 2002, when voters prohibited it.

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