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By Brooks Jarosz | Source |

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. – Residents of a Castro Valley mobile home park fear they will be homeless after they received notices from their landlord doubling their rent, beginning early next year.

Avalon Mobile Home Park on Castro Valley Boulevard has about four-dozen spaces and is home to many low-income residents who were told rent is rising by an extra $500 a month, according to letters they received this week.

“I’m ready to have a heart attack over it,” said Judy Espinosa who has lived at the park for more than seven years. “This is our home. This is all we have.”

Alameda County has a rent stabilization ordinance for mobile home parks in unincorporated areas like Castro Valley. But it states owners are entitled to a fair return.

Owners of the park told residents planned improvements and rising expenses including property taxes, insurance, and maintenance make the increase necessary.

For some, the cost is set to increase from $515 a month to about $995. Avalon said the monthly market rate for their lots is between $1,300 and $1,450 each.

“I am a senior on a fixed income and I can’t afford this,” Espinosa said. “I can’t even move this house, so I don’t know where I’d go or what I’d do. You’re killing us.”

Three Pillar Communities owns the park. It’s one of its 70 manufactured home communities in 13 states, according to the company’s website.

“We feel like we’re being targeted by a big corporation that is coming after little places like this that they can take advantage of,” said resident Tara Clancy. “I think they’re going to keep going until they get what they want.”

Avalon’s owners said they want to keep providing affordable housing, but it has to be financially sustainable.

“The new rents are affordable to Very Low Income households, under county and state guidelines” co-founder Daniel Weisfield said in a statement. “And the property owner has voluntarily offered rent discounts to any tenants who have actual financial need.”

“People don’t have the money to pay,” 30-year resident Joseph Ferea said. “I can pay a little bit extra, but I can’t really go that far. That’s $400, $500 more a month. Nobody deserves this.”

The big jump in rents is not just happening in Castro Valley but across California.

In Petaluma, residents at Little Woods Mobile Villa saw increases of 300% or more, despite a rent control ordinance specifically for mobile home parks.

“The first word is greed and the second reason is because they can,” said Martha O’Connell with the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners Association [sic]. “The park owners can say well, if I don’t get this rent raised, I’m going to have to sell the park and you’re going to lose your homes.”

O’Connell said oftentimes mobile home park residents are caught between three things including a severe housing crisis, a lack of local rent stabilization ordinances, and a push by property owners for housing through the “builders’ remedy,” allowing developers to ignore some rules if they promise new affordable housing projects.

“They’ve got these folks over a barrel,” she said. “The park owners have all the money and that’s where we level the playing field by getting organized.”

Even if there is rent control, there’s nothing stopping park owners from threatening to sell out to other developers, unless there are closure and conversion ordinances in place.

But many city laws still allow for park owners to attempt to raise rents beyond the capped increase of 4% or 5% by going before a judge in arbitration. That, however, comes at a cost to residents for legal representation.

“We’re afraid,” said Clancy. “It’s going to cost us money that we don’t have and stress and time that we don’t have.”

The GSMOL and other tenant advocacy groups are offering resources or legal services.

KTVU requested comment from Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley’s office, which represents Castro Valley, but did not immediately hear back.

Longtime Avalon residents said they won’t be able to survive come next February.

“Help us. We are at their mercy,” said Espinosa. “And we don’t want to be bullied into something that we can’t handle.”

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