Beyond Chron: WILL CA PROTECT MOBILEHOME TENANTS?

Source: BeyondChron: The Voice of the Rest

AB 978 Fills Tenant Protection Gap

When California enacted statewide rent caps and just cause eviction protections in 2019 (AB 1482), a critical constituency was excluded: mobilehome park renters. Now, Assemblymembers Sharon Quirk-Silva and David Chiu are sponsoring AB 978 to fill that gap.

California has roughly 5,244 mobilehome parks. According to the legislative analysis, there are many instances where “mobilehome  parks have imposed double-digit  rent annual  increases on park residents…investors have become interested in buying mobilehome parks and are obtaining remarkable returns by, among other things, raising  rents.”

It’s critical that AB 978 pass this session so mobilehome tenants get vital protections without delay.

Mobilehome-CA Tenant Alliance

When I launched successful state tenant campaigns in the late 1990’s to reinstate the Renters Tax Credit and for Ellis Act reforms, we had the strong support of the statewide mobile home tenant community. Dave Hennessy, who began as President of the Golden State Mobilhome Owners League (GSMOL) before leaving to start a new organization, used all of his South Bay political connections to win support for our agenda.

Dave Hennessy was a trusted ally. Tenant advocates across California saw him as a renters’ champion.

Mobilehome tenants provided key support in the multi-year fight to stop the Costa-Hawkins Act. They had political strength outside rent-control jurisdictions and used it on the state tenants’ movement’s behalf.

Mobilehome tenants faced an unusual situation. Park owners poured money into legislators whose districts included no parks, and hence had no mobilehome tenants to keep them accountable. In the late 1990’s  Rod Wright, a Black Assembly member from South Central Los Angeles, was the park owners’ chief Democratic ally. Wright became chair of the Assembly Housing Committee and used his clout against all bills backed by mobile home tenants while in the Assembly from 1996-2002 (After being elected to the State Senate in 2008. Wright was convicted on eight counts of voter fraud in 2014. He was pardoned by Governor Jerry Brown).

Hennessy brought me out to his San Jose mobilehome park in the late 1990’s so I could see firsthand what tenants were facing. The visit made me an even stronger advocate of mobilehome tenants ever since.

AB 978 Fills Critical Gap

Now it’s time for tenant advocates to rally behind AB 978.  AB 978 gives mobilehome tenants the statewide anti-rent gouging and “just cause” eviction protections other California tenants got with AB 1482. The bill “prohibits the management  of a mobilehome  park located within  and governed by two or more incorporated cities from increasing  the gross rental  rate for a space in the park by more than three percent plus the percentage change in the cost of living,  as defined, up to a maximum  total of five  percent, of the lowest gross rental  rate charged for the immediately preceding 12 months.”

Assemblymember Quirk-Silva saw the need for this bill when in February 2019 the Rancho La Paz mobilehome park in her district announced  rent increases of $200 to $400 a month. Negotiations reduced these amounts but tenants were still required to pay rent increases from 15%-19% over the next three years. That’s while California rents/rent increases have fallen due to the pandemic.

AB 978 helps ensure such steep rent hikes never happen again.

The Bill’s Prospects

AB 978 passed the Assembly 50-19. One would think it would sail through the Senate for passage. But the same political forces that got mobilehome tenants excluded from the 2019 Tenant Protection Act are still opposing this bill. These opponents include the California  Association of Realtors and California  Mobilehome  Parkowners Alliance. Both groups are used to getting their way in Sacramento. That’s why its critical that people contact their legislator to urge them to support AB 978.

Mobilehomes are a critical housing resource for California’s hard-hit working and middle-class. The state needs AB 978 to protect this vital housing supply, and the bill is part of the larger movement toward increased economic justice for tenants.