Seniors living at Skandia Mobile Home Park in Huntington Beach are increasingly worried they won’t be able to afford rent hikes, jeopardizing their ability to keep living in the homes they strategically planned to spend the rest of their days in.
But they’re not giving up on those plans without a fight.
Residents at the park as well as other parks in Huntington Beach have repeatedly called on their city council members to put a measure on the November ballot that would let voters decide on a new law that would stop rent hikes at mobile home parks like theirs across the city.
“The voters of Huntington Beach deserve the right to express their views on this issue,” Patricia Taylor, a Rancho Huntington Mobile Home Park resident said at a May 3 city council meeting.
Today, they plan to hold a demonstration at 4:30 p.m. on the intersection of Yorktown Avenue and Main Street near city hall – after routinely calling for city council members to hold a study session on the ballot measure.
Feeling ignored by their council members, they also have set their eyes now on state and federal representatives to help keep their rent rates in check.
Residents are calling on state representatives like State Senator Dave Min, State Senator Tom Umberg, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris and Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen for help.
None of the representatives or their staff members returned requests for comment.
Jumping above the city council and looking to state officials for help is a move that parallels what Rancho La Paz Mobile Home Park residents did in 2019.
Residents at that park – which straddles both Anaheim and Fullerton – turned to Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva to address rent hikes after trying to get the two cities to pass an ordinance stopping high rent increases set by the new park owner.
Last year, Gov. Gavin Newson signed a bill crafted by Quirk-Silva to stop steep rent increases at mobile parks, but the bill had a stipulation that it would only apply to mobile homes that reside between two cities.
And like Rancho La Paz, Skandia Mobile Home Park seniors are facing rent increases after new owners, Investment Property Group, bought the park last August.
Valerie Avila, who works for Investment Property Group (IPG), did not respond to a request for comment.
Life & Rent in Skandia Mobile Home Park
Residents at Skandia Senior Mobile Home Park – a 167 unit park – were informed of a rent increase of $75 a month annually for the next three years after the park fell under new ownership last August.
That means seniors could be paying an additional $225 a month in rent by 2025.
The park is home to seniors and veterans who live off fixed incomes from their pensions and social security checks, which they also use for groceries and medical expenses. As homeowners, they are also responsible for upkeep of their houses.
These residents own their homes, but pay rent for the space their houses occupy in the park.
Space rent for people who decide to move to Skandia is shooting up by $750 – causing the value of the homes in the park to plummet by $75,000 or more, residents say.
So residents at the mobile home park started to pushback.
Julie Rodriguez, president of property management for IPG, told Huntington Beach city council members in February that they have reinvested $100,000 into the community in the first six months since the park was bought.
“The property taxes were reassessed in the amount of $290 per site, per month. The rent increase to $75 does not nearly cover the increase in property taxes of the community but we kept the increase low in order to ensure every resident can stay in their home,” she said.
The Fight For Affordable Rent
Meanwhile, surf city residents created the Huntington Beach Mobile Home Resident Coalition and have sent a mailer to other mobile home park residents in the city warning them that their park could be next.
“We’re now educating all the other mobile home residents of Huntington Beach,” Carol Rohr, Skandia resident and the park’s Homeowner Association President, said in a phone call last week. “We’ve got other parks now jumping on board and wanting to form HOAs and start talking to city council.”
Residents at Huntington Shorecliffs mobile home park are also worried about their rent recently shooting up 8.5% and some are joining in on calling for a ballot measure.
“It’s very frustrating. Many people can not afford it,” said resident Lourdes Leis. “We have a lot of seniors that are on fixed incomes.”
Rohr, who is spearheading the fight, and residents have also managed to garner some support from the city’s Mobile Home Advisory Board.
In April, the board narrowly voted 5-4 to recommend to council members to put the initiative on the ballot following a push from the residents themselves – but the city council hasn’t considered the recommendation so far.
The board is made up of mobile home residents and mobile home park owners selected by the council members – some of whom also spoke on the issue at council meetings.
“This rent/affordable housing challenge is nationwide, but the buck needs to stop here in Huntington Beach,” said Allison Plum, a board member who called into the May 3 meeting.
“For stability, safety, security, please let mobile home residents remain in their homes in Huntington Beach and not have to sell out of desperation or fear – often with nowhere to go after a mobile home,” Plum said.
Mobile home park owners aren’t too thrilled with that idea and have also spoken out at city council meetings.
The mobile home park owners that sit on the city’s mobile home advisory board voted against recommending council members putting the measure on the November ballot.
Chris Houser, a board member who voted against the recommendation and one of the owners of the Rancho Del Rey mobile home park, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Houser spoke out at a city council earlier this year against the ballot measure, questioning who would put limits on the increasing expenses for park owners.
“Residents want to limit their increase in rent but who is going to put limits on the increase to our expenses? Our expenses climb every year with insurance, employment and ever-increasing maintenance costs,” he said.
City council members have not brought up the measure for a discussion at their meetings since that recommendation.
“We have sent numerous emails and calls and tried to talk to them and they’re not even responding to us. They’re avoiding us completely,” Rohr said.
Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize told Voice of OC earlier this year that it would be up to the residents to get the initiative on the ballot when the issue was first reported in February.
Instead, the city council decided to hold a resource fair for low-income seniors and mobile home residents.
Delgleize said in a phone interview Sunday that they have listened to residents, but there is no support for the mobile home park rent control ballot measure from city council members.
“We’ve listened to them almost every city council meeting for the last three or four months, I’ve had numerous meetings with individuals from their group at City Hall,” she said.
Delgleize said while she feels for seniors in mobile home parks, there are seniors who live in apartments on fixed incomes as well.
“Why is it any different if the landlord is raising the rent? What do we do? That means all of a sudden, now we’ve got the whole entire city asking for a rent subsidy,” Delgleize said.
Rohr said even if it becomes a citywide measure to stabilize rent for all residents in Huntington Beach it is not a bad thing.
Delgleize said that what is really needed is affordable housing for seniors.
“What’s happening right now is the reality of what we’ve known for a very long time. It’s very expensive to live here and we are asking – I don’t know whether the builders are going to be able to come in and build affordable housing or affordable senior living. That’s what we need,” Delgleize said.
She also mentioned concerns about the cost of putting the measure on the ballot, but could not say how much it would cost to do so.
City Clerk Robin Estanislau estimates the election-related costs of putting a measure on the November ballot somewhere between $273,134 – $390,596.
Delgleize also said seniors on fixed incomes can get subsidies for trash, water and electricity service.
The only other way residents could get the initiative on the ballot is by starting a petition and getting tens of thousands of signatures.
But Estanislau said in an email that it is too late to start the petition process to get their initiative on the ballot for November.
Meanwhile, residents from mobile home parks keep showing up to city council meetings and continuing to call on their elected officials to take action.
At a city council meeting last month, residents even asked council members to hold a study session on the matter.
At that same council meeting, city council members proclaimed May as Older Americans Month.
Huntington Beach city council members are expected to meet today at city hall at 6 p.m. Residents can attend in person or watch live online on the city’s website.
A discussion on the recommended ballot measure is once again not on the agenda.
Push Back on Rent Stabilization in Surf City
The fight for rent stabilization for mobile homes in Huntington Beach is not without hurdles and opposition.
One of those hurdles is a law passed two decades ago banning rent control in the city.
Residents say they don’t want to change that law entirely and that the ballot measure they are advocating for would create a carve out to stop drastic rent increases solely at mobile home parks.
Suzan Neal, a Skandia resident, told city council members at a meeting on May 3 that following discussions with council members and without the council’s support, residents feel like David staring down Goliath.
“If you truly believe that there is no way that the ballot measure can pass, do us a favor and give us a stone. Put the carve out on the agenda and then vote to put it on the ballot,” she said.
“What’s more, it would get us out of your hair. Imagine a city council meeting just like the old days. So this could be a win-win for everybody. You get to look benign without really giving us anything. We get to stop going to city council meetings.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.