The ordinance imposes a 5 percent rent cap for all mobile home parks in National City.
BY TAMMY MURGA | Source
The National City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that temporarily limits rent increases at mobile home parks.
The ordinance, which prohibits property owners from increasing rent by more than 5 percent annually, still requires a second reading next month. It would become effective Jan. 1, 2023, and expire June 30, 2024.
The push for rent control began when several residents at Keystone Trailer Park, most of them low-income Latino seniors, raised concerns about 20 percent rent increases and added utility costs that occurred over the summer.
Maria Sanchez, 75, and her husband Tony, 76, are 35-year Keystone residents whose rent increased by $100, or 20 percent. Tenants’ rents at Keystone, which has 91 spaces and is home to about 250 people, average around $585 a month without utilities.
As a retired couple with complex medical conditions and who rely on Supplemental Security Income to make ends meet, “even $100 more a month is a lot for us,” said Sanchez.
After Tuesday’s vote, they couple said they’ll sleep a little easier knowing the city had approved rules aimed at protecting them where state law does not.
California has renter protections under Assembly Bill 1482 that caps rent increases at 10 percent annually, but they exclude mobile home parks. Assembly Bill 978, signed into law last year, includes a 5 percent cap on mobile homes, but it doesn’t apply to properties like Keystone. The state law covers parks that are located within and governed by two or more incorporated cities.
National City has four mobile home parks, but its largest one, with more than 160 spaces on Valley Road, is the only property impacted by AB 978 because portions of the park fall within San Diego and National City limits.
Local trailer park owners, including from Keystone, said the ordinance discourages landlords from improving the quality of life for their tenants and could prompt some to sell their properties, ultimately displacing tenants from one of the last affordable housing options for seniors and other low-income families.
Should a landlord want to take a mobile home property off the market and build apartments, for example, National City’s mobile home zoning laws require property owners to apply with the city for discontinuance and have a relocation plan in place for the tenants.
Paul Stewart, who is part of Keystone’s management, said he has made several improvements to the property since 2020 that included pipework and the addition of cameras and fences to help deter trespassing.
“We want to continue making these improvements, but it’s expensive,” he said.
Councilmember Ron Morrison said landlords are struggling to make ends meet just as much as inflation-weary tenants are in and around National City.
At the request of property owners, Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis successfully requested the ordinance be amended to take effect in January instead of a retroactive date of July. If the local law had been retroactive to July, then parks would have to reimburse tenants who received increases at that time.
Renters such as Lorenzo Magaña, a Keystone resident who mobilized other tenants to lobby city officials for the ordinance, said residents supported reasonable rate increases.
“These unregulated rent increases are putting us at risk of becoming homeless and are driving us away from this city we love,” he said. “Our fight is not just for Keystone, but for every resident at every mobile home park in the country.”
National City is the latest municipality in the county to approve rental protections for mobile home park tenants. In October, Imperial Beach approved an emergency ordinance instituting a ban on evictions, a 5 percent rent cap and anti-harassment provisions for trailer parks. Chula Vista, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos and Santee also have mobile home rent stabilization ordinances.
Sotelo-Solis said the issue is part of a larger conversation that “we’re having a housing crisis.”
“This isn’t the complete fixer,” she said. “But it’s a step in the right direction and an opportunity for us as a city to move forward and provide very needed protections for the tenants.”