City to Control Mobile Home Rents : Housing: A measure to keep rates at no more than 10% above last July’s levels is scheduled to be put before the council for a second vote on Monday.
The City Council fell a vote short this week of putting an immediate temporary ceiling on rent increases at mobile home parks, but set the stage for imposing such a limit in the near future.
On Monday, the group voted 5 to 2--with Mayor Donna Smith and Councilman Boyd Bredenkamp opposed--in favor of an ordinance that would prohibit park owners from raising rates more than 10% above the rents in effect last July. The seven-member council needs six votes to enact an ordinance on an urgency basis, which would have taken effect immediately.
A group of mobile home residents, upset by the city’s handling of the issue, served recall notices at the council meeting against Smith and Bredenkamp.
Rent moratorium supporters wanted the ordinance to take effect immediately, because a number of parks have scheduled rent increases Jan. 1.
The council can still pass the ordinance with a simple majority, but the law would not take effect until 30 days after its adoption. The council will meet at 2:30 p.m. Monday for the second reading and, if the ordinance is passed as expected, it would go into effect in time to govern February rent payments.
The ordinance would limit rents charged after Jan. 22 to a maximum of the rent paid last July, plus 10%. But city officials said the ordinance does not provide for rebate of any higher rents that may have been paid earlier.
The ceiling would remain in effect for up to 45 days to give the council time to develop a long-term rent-stabilization program.
Alan Cartnal, one of the leaders in the rent control movement, praised the council majority for trying to help tenants. He said this is the first strong indication of council support for rent stabilization.
But another mobile home owner, Tiffany Curry, said a moratorium will have limited impact. One of the major problems, she said, is that landlords are coercing tenants into signing long-term leases with built-in rate increases that under state law cannot be affected by city regulations.
Curry, Cartnal and three other residents of mobile home parks signed the notices that were handed to Smith and Bredenkamp to declare the intention to circulate recall petitions. The petitioners will need to collect signatures from 20% of the city’s 40,178 registered voters in order to force a recall election.
The identical notices accuse Smith and Bredenkamp of betraying public trust, soliciting campaign funds from special interests and a “failure to put the concerns of private citizens residing in Pomona over those of planning and development interests.”
Curry said Smith and Bredenkamp cannot deal with the rent control issue fairly, because they have accepted campaign donations from mobile home park owners. The allegations against the mayor and council member are the same, because they vote alike at council meetings, Curry said.
“We consider them a matched set.”
Smith said she has received support from both tenants and landlords in past elections, and that campaign contributions do not influence her votes.
The mayor said she sees no need to mount a campaign to fight the recall. Her record is well known to voters, she said.
“They know I work very hard,” Smith said.
Bredenkamp said his vote is not influenced by campaign contributions, nor will his stand on rent control be altered by the fact that some residents want to remove him from office.
“I’ll vote whichever way I feel is right,” he said.
The councilman said he opposes the temporary rent ceiling, because the city does not have enough information on the issue. The city staff is gathering data on rental rates and the number of residents on long-term leases in preparation for the council’s consideration of a permanent rent stabilization program in January.
Bredenkamp said that if the facts show that tenants are being treated unfairly, he will support city action to help them. But, he said, “I want to exhaust every avenue before we go into a rent control program.”
Smith said the city could open itself to a lawsuit by imposing a rent ceiling without first obtaining all the facts.
But Councilman Tomas Ursua said there have been so many complaints of exorbitant rent increases that the city should impose a moratorium while it gathers the information needed to establish a rent stabilization program.
In the meantime, by allowing rent increases of up to 10%, Ursua said, “We’re not depriving landlords of a fair return.”