The Santa Rosa City Council last week finalized a legislative effort to shield residents of the city’s mobile home parks from significant rent hikes.
Santa Rosa’s 16 rent controlled parks serve as some of the city’s last affordable housing. Currently, 1,690 out of 2,155 mobile home spaces in the city are rent controlled, with residents paying an average rent of $721 per month for the land under their mobile home.
Park residents requested the city revisit its ordinance earlier this year. Speakers at a Nov. 29 city council meeting said that many park residents are fixed-income seniors, a demographic that is disproportionately likely to become homeless due to rising housing costs.
“Many of us simply cannot afford the consistent higher rent increases, especially the one this year of 5.7%. Some of my neighbors are already walking a tightrope between paying rent and buying food and necessary medicine, with little or no space before falling into homelessness,” Dianne Monroe, a mobile home owner, said at the council meeting.
Last updated in 2004, the city’s ordinance has matched rent increases to the change of the regional cost of living, known as the consumer price index (CPI), with an annual cap of 6%. Since 2001, the annual increase has averaged 2.7%. But, going into 2023, due to historic inflation, park owners would be allowed to increase rents by 5.7%.
For residents on fixed incomes, the costs are catching up. Over the past 10 years, the CPI has increased by 10% more than Social Security payments, according to a city staff report.
After debate over the past four months, the council voted 5-2 at a Nov. 29 meeting to set the new allowed rent increase at 70% of the change in CPI, capped at a 4% rent increase per year. Last week, the council voted to finalize the change.
A proposal from park owners called for an annual increase at 75% of CPI, while keeping the cap at the current 6% of CPI. They also offered to pay $100,000 per year into a city-run rent subsidy fund for struggling park residents.
In a letter to the council, the Santa Rosa Mobilehome Park Owners said their plan would ensure “park owners can continue to reinvest in a critical source of unsubsidized affordable housing.”
Mobile home residents requested a lower cap, matched to 65% of the increase in CPI, with a 3.5% limit on rent increases.