OCEANSIDE — Voters will get the final say on the vacancy decontrol ordinance that nixed long-standing rent control for mobile home park spaces June 5. The special election on the ordinance will cost the city approximately $93,000.
Opponents of vacancy decontrol, who gathered the 15,000-plus signatures to challenge the vacancy decontrol ordinance, pushed for a less costly November general election date that would save the city about $37,000. However, the city council majority stuck with the June 5 date in a 3-2 vote Jan. 4, in which Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no.
Speakers at the meeting formed two camps, one of mobile home owners and supporters against vacancy decontrol, and the other of park owners and lobbyists for vacancy decontrol.
Vacancy decontrol allows park owners to raise space rents without limits.
Park owners said rents would simply be raised to the market rate as current homeowners move out.
“Vacancy decontrol puts one-sided rent control in line,” Amy Epsten Magness, park owner, said.
Seniors and veterans, who make up the majority of the 2,500 mobile home owners, said the uncertainty of rent amounts for new owners will cause the value of their mobile homes to plummet.
“What homeowner will buy a home if rent can be raised without limits?” asked Oceanside resident Linda Walshaw.
While space rents will remain the same for current homeowners, anticipated equity for retirement and the opportunity to bequeath the property to family looks dim for mobile home owners who are seemingly a captive audience once their homes are set in a park.
“I have $150,000 wrapped up in my home,” Diane Hanson, mobile home owner, said. “I want to give that to my son rather than the lending board.”
“This is mean spirited and terrible timing in this economy,” Wood said. “The big issue is property rights, the ground or the property itself.”
To inform voters of the pros and cons of the ordinance Kern will write the official argument for vacancy decontrol and Sanchez will write the official argument against it.
“It’s fair, responsible and equitable,” Kern said.
Kern added that the focus on park owners’ ability to raise space rents without limits is a “red herring.” He said rents will only increase to the market rate.
Sanchez said vacancy decontrol is an inequity that benefits multi-million dollar park owners. The previous rent control ordinance stood up in court when challenged by park owners. It put a limit on park space rents and guaranteed park owners a 16-40 percent profit.
“No more rent control is no more protection,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said she would work with residents, who took the initiative to challenge vacancy decontrol, to write the argument against the ordinance.
“I will include the folks involved in the referendum and we’ll be working on this together,” Sanchez said.
Funds to pay for the $93,000 special election will come from the Economic Stabilization Reserves.