MOUNTAIN VIEW — Amid growing concern from mobile home dwellers that rising rents will drive them out of the city, Mountain View council members are divided on whether to support a new rent control measure that would cover mobile homes.
Mountain View’s current rent stabilization law that passed in 2016 does not identify mobile homes as eligible for rent control. Two years ago, the Rental Housing Committee excluded the city’s 1,130 mobile home spaces in six parks from protections under the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act.
So dozens of mobile home owners who attended Tuesday night’s city council meeting said that their rents have skyrocketed year-over-year, threatening one of the largest stocks of affordable homes in Mountain View and Santa Clara County.
While no firm data exists, city staff said, anecdotal evidence suggests that rent increases for mobile home park spaces have ranged from 3.6% to 12% annually. At the time of a sale or title transfer, rents have gone up between 25% to 50% for the mobile home’s new owner.
“Mobile homes are an essential part of the affordable housing you’ve been talking about preserving in Mountain View,” Trey Bornmann said to the council. “This is now your opportunity to step up.”
There are currently 17,115 mobile homes in 96 mobile homes parks in Santa Clara County. Mountain View is home to six mobile home parks with a total of 1,130 spaces.
A large piece of the mobile population are senior citizens, accounting for 3,925 spaces in 23 senior-only parks in the county. There are about 312 senior spaces in Mountain View, though local activists who conducted their own surveys say that the population is much bigger.
Andrew Horne, who has been a resident of the Santiago Villa mobile home park for three years, said he has met a historical population of working-class people and seniors facing dwindling purchasing power as Bay Area inflation continues.
“I don’t think they could be re-housed anywhere in the region,” Horne said. “Our lease agreements don’t provide us with a great deal of protection. Most people have all their equity tied up in their mobile homes, which is tied to their space rent. People could lose a lot due to a rent increase.”
Horne was joined by 31 other speakers, the majority of whom were members of the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance who urged the council to enforce rent control for mobile homes. Others, representing management companies and mobile home park owners, asked the council to consider alternatives like long-term lease agreements with residents.
Charlene Garza, who represents the Evans and Evans Properties management group responsible for the Moorpark mobile home park, said park owners have to increase rents to keep up with necessary improvements.
“One of the challenges they face is replacing infrastructure from the 1960s,” Garza said. “We’ve had $75 increases every other year, and we understand it is a hardship for some residents. That’s why we have a rent deferment program. It’s the ownership of Moorpark’s wish to come up with an alternative to rent control and work with members of the community.”
But although a majority of the audience Tuesday boisterously supported rent control — often breaking out into applause to the chagrin of Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga who had asked members of the audience to be quiet — the council was not as united.
Council members Chris Clark and Lisa Matichak were hesitant to move forward with a rent control measure without first considering alternatives like a model lease or an agreement between mobile home park owners and residents.
Clark said that a mix between rent control and specialized lease agreements could work since only applying rent control could impact park owners that are already being fair to residents.
“One version is having a model lease that basically says we work with mobile home park owners to come up with it but driven by the council so you have a much stronger lease that isn’t bent one way or the other,” Clark said. “It would be backed up by a fairly strict rent control so that you can go with the model lease and work with everyone to come up with something long term, or if you don’t, then rent control applies.”
But council member Alison Hicks did not equivocate in her long-time support for rent control and urged her colleagues to give mobile home owners the same protections that apartment dwellers have.
Hicks also said that Mountain View might be the only city in the state that has rent control protections for apartments but not mobile home parks, as more than 100 jurisdictions in the state have added rent control for mobile homes even though they offer no such protections for apartments.
“That underlines to me how important this is,” Hicks said. “It’s generally recognized among cities in California that mobile home residents are particularly vulnerable and that it’s particularly important to have mobile home rent control. I think we may be the only city in California that has apartment rent control but not mobile home rent control and if that’s the case I would like to not be the exception anymore.”