New legislation is underway to protect California's mobile home parks, hundreds of which are affordable havens for low-income mobile home owners and tenants. Since 2000, owners and developers have targeted mobile home parks for conversion into higher-income generating uses, according to George H. Kaelin III, an attorney at Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP in San Diego. In 2007, Kaelin predicted that mobile home parks would face drastic decline and recommended that protections be put in place to mitigate these closures. He was right. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of mobile homes nationally has fallen 3%. Now, Assemblyman Mark Stone and advocates with the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League have put themselves to the task of protecting mobile home park residents from displacement with a statewide bill to limit park closures.
Their bill, AB 705, proposes a number of changes to current mobile home park conversion statutes and protections for residents who would be impacted by the closure. Some of the proposed changes include:
- Extending the notice period for notifying mobile home park residents of management's appearance before a local board requesting approval for an intended change of use from 15 to 60 days written notice.
- Requiring owners to provide a replacement and relocation plan for displaced residents and prohibiting a local agency from approving or conditionally approving the report until the plan demonstrates that each resident can obtain and relocate into adequate housing. The bill extends the notice period for owners to provide this report to residents of the mobile home park from 15 to 60 days.
- These protections would extend to residents of floating home marinas.
In 2018, the proposed closure of Green Lantern Village in Orange County threatened the livelihood of 130 mobile home tenants, most of whom were Vietnamese immigrants that came to the U.S. as refugees during the Vietnam War. Others are low-income seniors who rely on the park's affordable rents to survive. “I am 96 years old and I hope this is my last home,” said Dorothy Wilder, who moved to Green Lantern Village with her husband in 1988. Wilder and her family rely on Social Security payments to cover their cost of living.
The closure of mobile home parks without strong relocation plans has negatively impacted the affordable housing supply of hundreds of communities. One tenant, Paul Labouchere, spoke before the Westminster Planning Commission with an emotional appeal: "This is reality here. Our rents in our park are about $900…so how can we go from $900 to $1900?....There’s no way, absolutely no way.” According to impact reports, there is no adequate replacement housing to relocate the residents. Despite this, the owners are continuing with their efforts to convert the park.
Mobile home displacement has disproportionate effects on communities of color. In Rancho Mirage, the closure of the Rancho Palms Mobile Home Park redirected the lives of hundreds of residents, 2/3 of whom identified Spanish as their native language in a city where Latino/a residents make up only 10% of the population. The costs of displacement on these tenants have never been accounted for.
"One man said his children’s grades dropped after the move. A woman reported that she and her children suffered from depression, in part as a result of the move. Two said their new homes had been robbed. At least 16 said they were spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, meaning their homes wouldn't count as comparable replacement housing. Many said they had moved farther away from their jobs and their children’s schools, driving up their transportation costs, too."
The regulation of converted use is an important tool leaders can adopt to ensure that available land is not held vacant for years or available only to higher-income residents. AB 705's protections prevent these outcomes by holding cities and owners accountable to the severe shortage of affordable housing that California faces.
To submit individual/organizational endorsement letters of AB 705, use your Advocate portal to submit letters to the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development.