Windsor officials weighed whether to change a local rent control ordinance governing mobile home parks at a town council meeting Wednesday night.
The hour-plus long discussion echoed increasing demands by mobile homeowners in other parts of the county and California to rein in rent hikes as residents, who are often older and reliant on a fixed income, struggle to keep up.
“We live from month to month on a fixed income, which we totally exhaust every month,” said Robert Windus, a 75-year-old veteran with disabilities and one of many residents of the Windsor Mobile Country Club mobile home park to speak.
Faced with high rent increases, he told the council, “Somewhere during the next four years we will become financially insolvent. Please don’t put us on the street.”
Indeed, mobile homes have been a rare affordable housing option, especially for older people who have become California’s fastest-growing homeless population.
Governed by different laws than other housing, rent increases on the land beneath a mobile home are a local control issue. Roughly 100 California cities and counties have some form of rent control with yearly increases mostly tied to a percentage of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the measure of prices for goods and services paid by consumers in an area.
While that figure fluctuates year to year, Social Security payments have overall failed to keep pace, putting some residents at risk of being pushed out, especially now as they face soaring utility bills and record inflation.
Like most other jurisdictions in Sonoma County, Windsor, which has four mobile home parks, restricts rent hikes to 100% of the CPI with a 6% cap.
That means Windsor mobile home residents are facing up to a 5.7% rent bump next year.
Nearby Rohnert Park limits increases to 75% of CPI with a 4% cap.
Calistoga in Napa, Ukiah in Mendocino and San Rafael and Novato in Marin are the only cities in their respective counties with mobile home rent control.
At a September meeting on Windsor’s affordable housing plans, mobile homeowners requested a change to 50% of CPI with a 3% cap, cutting the current allowable increase in half.
The request spurred town staff to investigate updating the 30-year-old ordinance.
In the interim, mobile homeowners — retirees, former public schoolteachers, Walmart workers, veterans, parents and grandparents, Windsor natives and transplants — sent dozens of letters to officials.