Community Commentary: Protecting their community

It's no mystery that homes in Huntington Beach come with a high price tag. As an alternative to traditional single-family homes, many people, especially seniors, choose mobile home ownership. There are about 3,000 mobile homes in Huntington Beach, housing approximately 6,000 people in 18 mobile home parks throughout the city.

People older than 55 make up 20% of the population of Huntington Beach. Many of these seniors choose mobile home ownership not only because of the affordability, but also the amenities offered in the mobile home parks, including clubhouses and swimming pools. Many residents live in these communities for decades, forming tight friendships with their neighbors and developing a deep sense of belonging to a community.

These communities are unique in other ways. In mobile home parks, there are two owners, the land owner and the home owner. Each owner has expectations of and responsibilities to the other.

There are state and local laws which regulate some of these responsibilities. Often, these laws favor the land owners who, because of their greater wealth than the mobile home owners, have more access to our government leaders.

However, recent state and city ordinances have attempted to provide some protections to mobile home owners: Senate Bill 23 and the Huntington Beach Mobile Home Conversion Ordinance. The first, effective Sept. 1, requires mobile home park owners to create an emergency plan, post and notify residents of the plan and provide additional personal safety information to park residents.

The second requires park owners who wish to shut down the mobile home park community to relocate residents to a comparable park within a 20-mile radius or pay residents the market value of their homes.

Some lawmakers (and potential lawmakers) have argued that such laws violate the mobile home park owners' property rights. What these individuals neglect to understand is that the mobile home owners are also property owners and that these minimal protections help protect their investment as well as preserve their dignity and sense of belonging to a community.

Members of our community, regardless of their age or economic means, deserve to be valued as an integral part of our community, and their voices must be heard by our local and state leaders.

HEATHER GROW is a candidate for Huntington Beach City Council.

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