Business & Economy

LA County drafting rent control for mobile home parks

Mobile home parks, like this one in Rowland Heights, have seen rents rise as vacancy rates plunge, according to L.A. County officials.
Mobile home parks, like this one in Rowland Heights, have seen rents rise as vacancy rates plunge, according to L.A. County officials.
Rina Palta, KPCC

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Citing a shortage of affordable housing and growing homeless population, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has moved ahead with plans to regulate rent in mobile home parks in the county.

The board voted four to one Tuesday to draft a rent control ordinance for such properties that would also include ways for tenants to appeal disputes with park owners. 

"In many ways, mobile home parks are the last bastion of affordable homes for many people," said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who authored the proposal. "But mobile home residents are seeing their rents increase and are finding themselves in very difficult situations."

For instance: while they may own the physical structure they live in, the property it sits on can go up in rent with little warning. And, Hahn said, "mobile homes" have a bit of a misnomer.

"They're not mobile at all, they're built into the ground as permanent structures," she said.

But while a majority of supervisors support placing caps on rent increases on the lots, Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against the proposal.

"Unless we as a board look at what are the barriers to building, we're not going to solve this problem," she said. "What happens is you have five homes for sale and thirty people wanting to buy."

Many economists believe rent control ordinances in general have the potential to stymie new development.

The coauthor of the proposal, Supervisor Shiela Kuehl, however, said the county is looking at myriad aspects of the struggle to solve homelessness and housing affordability. Cutting down on the number of people who are losing their homes due to rising rents and other factors is a major priority, she said.

"This is one of the panoply of things we will take up," she said.

Mobile home tenants who showed up for Tuesday's hearing largely supported the measure, though some had concerns.

Joe Ming, who identified himself as a 17-year-old mobile home resident, said he worried the lag time between starting to write a rent control ordinance and enacting one might spark massive rent increases at mobile home parks.

"I think a temporary rent freeze is vital," he said.

Hahn said the county would act quickly to see if a rent freeze is legal and feasible.

By Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas's estimate, there are about 8,500 mobile homes spread out over parks throughout the county. Any rent control ordinance would apply only to those on unincorporated land.

Ridley-Thomas supported the proposal, though asked that special consideration be given to how to properly enforce any ordinance.

"Absence of enforcement, it becomes ineffective," he said.

The board is expected to take up a drafted ordinance in August.