UPDATE: Community discusses internal governing for mobile home parks

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Santa Clarita’s community of mobile home park residents and mobile home park owners gathered for two meetings to weigh in on changes being made to the city’s municipal code.

Most notably, the update to the Manufactured Home Park Rent Adjustment Procedures will do away with the current form of internal governing to settle issues between residents and owners.

Currently, there is an unpaid panel of five people, which includes two residents, two owners and an impartial fifth member who make decisions based on appeals residents make concerning rent increases. Panel members are drawn from all of the parks and the panel represents complaints for parks operating in the city.

Under the new code, an administrative hearing officer would be subcontracted to listen to appeal hearings without bias.

“The officer would use their experience and judgement, take back all the information they have, compare the information they’ve received from the park owners and park residents against what the limitations, restrictions and requirements are and make a decision on what can and can’t go forward on a particular rent increase,” Santa Clarita Housing Program Administrator Erin Lay said.

Decision making was becoming increasingly partisan over the past two years, and panel members often chose what was most beneficial to their constituency instead of what aligned with the law, Lay said.

“What we’ve experienced in the last two years of rent increase appeals is that they have gotten increasingly more contentious, difficult, polarized and partisan,” she said.

In addition to the partisan problems, the issues were costing the city a significant amount in resources in terms of city staff and legal fees. In 2016, almost $400,000 was spent on settling these cases, according to Lay.

“It was becoming this very unwieldy process and no one was happy with the outcome,” Lay said. “There was a lot of heated discussions during the panel appeal hearings. There was a point in which two panel members walked out of a meeting.”

At the meetings on Monday and Tuesday, renters, owners and panel members discussed their views on this potential change. Three of the five panel members said they were not opposed to the new officer position, Lay said.

The paid officer will be chosen by a qualifications process after the city releases a detailed description of the job. Out of those who send in proposals, city staff will narrow a pool of qualified applicants and choose one.

Invites to the meetings were sent to every renter and owner, equating to nearly 2,000 people across 17 mobile home parks, though only about 25 people came Monday and about 35 came Tuesday.

“We really are interested in having them come out and tell us what they think,” Lay said.

The code was established in 1990, and its primary purpose is to prevent mobile home owners from having to pay excessive rent increases while ensuring park owners are not underpaid by controlling the timing and methods for raising rental costs in mobile home parks.

Additionally, some changes will be made to language on the code to clarify and clean it up. Lay said some people liked the language changes and others did not.

Feedback, concerns and support will be relayed to the city council. Tentatively, the discussion regarding these updates will be on the city council agenda on April 25.

This article has been edited for clarity since it was originally printed. 

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