Huntington Beach Considers Rent Control

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As local seniors and veterans face sharp rent hikes at mobile home parks, Huntington Beach voters could decide in November whether to implement a limited form of rent control.

The City Council will hold a special meeting Monday afternoon on whether to put on the November ballot a 6-percent per year cap on mobile home park rent increases.

The measure appears aimed at growing tension in Huntington Beach over large rent hikes for seniors living in mobile home parks.

After corporate owners took control of mobile home parks, the rents nearly doubled, according to the Orange County Register.

“People have already lost their homes, people have already lost their life savings,” Councilman Joe Shaw said earlier this year.

The increases in Huntington Beach are part of a broader trend across Orange County, as more mobile home parks change from family to corporate ownership, according to the Register.

Rent control measures, meanwhile, are highly controversial among landlords, who argue they violate property rights.

In a Twitter message last week, Huntington Beach Mayor Matt Harper disagreed with a comparison between rent control and Proposition 13, the measure that limits property tax increases.

“Proposition 13 limits the government. I support #Prop13 Rent control limits the freedom of individuals,” Harper wrote.

Renée Franks, a former Huntington Beach resident now living in Denver, tweeted back her disagreement with Harper.

“its a decent comparison & rent control is needed Its not private owners jacking up rent its corp developers,” Franks wrote.

Brea-based blogger Rick Clark also chimed in, asking how Harper would address rising costs for seniors and veterans.

“Curious how you might support seniors and vets? Stabilize their costs?” Clark tweeted Harper, who didn’t reply.

Rent control ordinances are rare in Orange County, with a search finding one city that has enacted such a law. San Juan Capistrano has protections for the seven mobile home parks within the city, according to the Register.

In Lake Forest, residents earlier this year asked for rent control at mobile home parks, to no avail.

Broader rent control measures, beyond mobile home parks, have been enacted in five cities in Southern California, according to a tenant law website: Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and West Hollywood.

According to Census data compiled by Governing magazine, some Orange County cities have among the highest disparity between income and housing costs in America.

Anaheim and Santa Ana rank among the top cities in the country for the share of rentals where gross rent is at least 30 percent of income.

In Anaheim, 65 percent of rentals fall into that category, and in Huntington Beach it’s 62 percent.

The data also show Anaheim and Santa Ana as more expensive, in terms of median rental costs as a share of household income, than New York City.

Huntington Beach’s proposed measure would limit rent increases at mobile home parks to 6 percent per year, or the local Consumer Price Index if it’s higher. It would apply to tenants “whose monthly rent payment exceeds 33% of their gross monthly income.”

The cap would be unlikely to exceed 6 percent, barring a large increase in inflation; the local CPI increase hasn’t exceeded that level since at least 1996.

Click here to read the proposed measure’s text, and here to read communications with the city about the proposal.

Monday’s special meeting starts at 2:30 p.m. at Huntington Beach City Hall.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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