Mobile Home Rent Control Goes to November Ballot

Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors has approved placement of a mobile home park rent control ordinance on this November’s election ballot.

Along with that action at their Aug. 9 meeting, supervisors directed county staff to analyze what the county’s administrative costs will be if the ordinance is approved by voters.

Advocates of controlling mobile home park rents — which are paid not for the mobile homes themselves but for the land they sit on and associated facilities — have lobbied for county government action on an ordinance. But with no movement on that effort, they sought signatures for placing an ordinance on the Nov. 8 election ballot.

The signature gathering effort succeeded. But during a public comment period, Armin Woolski, whose family owns Thunderbird Mobile Estates in McKinleyville, said the ordinance’s provisions will impact park owners who have avoided increasing their rental prices.

“Now with our rent bases very low, this rent control creates an initiative that will punish us,” he continued. “This initiative is going to punish us for being compassionate, for having our rents so low, for being considerate — this is really going to affect the future of our park.”

But supporters of the ordinance said it’s not the so-called “mom and pop” owners that are problematic, but the corporations that buy them out and proceed to churn profit. An elderly mobile home park resident said her rents were reasonable until the family-owned park she lives in was sold to a corporate chain.

She told supervisors that for the first five years she lived in a senior mobile home park, annual rent increases averaged 2.25 percent. “Then, a year ago, the park was sold to a national chain and in this one year alone, my increase has been 9 percent,” she continued.

The proposed ordinance does allow rent increases that correspond to consumer price index increases. It also sets a rental fee of up to $5 a month to reimburse the county for its administration and enforcement of rent stabilization.

Supervisors had the choice of putting the ordinance to the vote or approving it outright themselves. Supervisor Rex Bohn’s motion to put the ordinance on the ballot and to have county staff analyze costs gained support.

Board Chair Mark Lovelace supported the motion but said his preference is for the board to approve the ordinance without a ballot vote.

He likened the ordinance to Proposition 13, which limits property tax increases to two percent a year. “Here we have people who own their own homes but don’t own the land those homes sit on,” Lovelace continued. “And yet they don’t have that same kind of protection.”

Lovelace nevertheless joined the unanimous vote in favor of Bohn’s motion.

The proposed ordinance will be voted on by residents of cities and the county unincorporated area but will only apply to the county area.