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SANTA PAULA : Mobile Home Rents Topic of Ballot Drive

Residents of eight mobile home parks in Santa Paula are collecting signatures for a ballot measure they hope will severely limit rent increases in their neighborhoods.

A city ordinance that allows park owners to raise space rentals by 25% each time a mobile home is sold makes the dwellings less affordable for new owners and harder to sell for current ones, said Helen Courier, who is spearheading the initiative.

“We are literally prisoners in our own yards,” said Courier, a resident of the Santa Paula West park.

Mobile home tenants hope to put on the ballot a new ordinance that would restrict rent increases to about 5%, though the exact percentage has not been decided, Courier said.

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Santa Paula passed a rent-control ordinance for mobile homes in 1984 that allows park owners to implement annual cost-of-living increases and to pass along the costs of improvements to the park.

Those increases have been implemented like clockwork, Courier said. However, the biggest problem with current law is the 25% rent increase upon sale, she said.

“If I die, my children won’t be able to sell my home,” Courier said. “The city must take greater control of the situation.”

Jim Murdock, president of the company that runs Courier’s park, said the company has spent $150,000 to improve the 195-space park over the last year. The average rent has increased from $220 in 1988 to $300 in 1990, a jump of 36%.

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“I have to price it to get a fair return,” he said.

To qualify for a special election, tenants must get about 1,350 signatures, or 15% of the city’s 9,000 registered voters, City Clerk Stacey MacDonald said. To get an initiative on a primary or general election ballot, signatures from 10% of the voters are needed.

About 7% of Santa Paula’s 25,000 residents live in mobile home parks, or about 1,800 people, according to the city.


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