Residents of Park Royale Mobile Home Park in Orange protested a sudden $175 hike in their land rent this past weekend--and they vow to stand outside the downtown SanTana office of part-owner Norman Katnik every weekend until he and the other owners listen.
J & H Asset Property Management, a Yorba Linda-based company that specializes in mobile home park operation, took over the 200-resident park (owned by four different families) in April. Soon after, a $200 increase in land rent was announced, effective July. In addition to monthly payments for their homes, residents would be paying upwards of $1,100 monthly for the small plot of land where their structure stands.
Bobbie Magnussen, president of both the park's Homeowners Association (HOA) and Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League (GSMOL) chapter, tried to negotiate a reasonable rent increase with the property management. In a letter to J & H, she requested raising the rent no more than 3% each year. "In the past, the rent increases in Park Royale were reasonable," she wrote. "Costs and budgets for Park management, infrastructure funds and upkeep of the park appear to have been very well-managed. No major work had been done this past year which would warrant a high rent increase. And careful budgeting of routine maintenance and repairs this next year should keep expenses under control."
Magnussen and GSMOL Secretary Ron (who asked the Weekly not to share his last name) claim that correspondence from J & H was minimal, until J & H returned with their final number just weeks before the increase was to go in effect: $175.
"To decrease from $200 to $175, it felt like a slap in the face," says Anne Fain, a 28-year resident of the park who lives on a fixed income. "The increase would take all of my social security."
While the name suggests that mobile homes can move, most mobile home parks only accept newer-model homes. For people like Fain, moving means completely abandoning the home they invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in.
Like Fain, the majority of the park residents are seniors on fixed incomes and disabled veterans who have lived there for decades. The rest are young families just scraping by, like Alma Pedroza, a stay-at-home-mother of five. Her husband works to support the family. "We already count every dollar that comes through our door," she says. "Obviously, we moved here because it's meant to be affordable housing."
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Though stereotyped by the mainstream as affordable, mobile home parks have joined the rest of the housing market in simultaneously being overpriced and having little homeowner protection left for consumers. The Manufactured Homes Education Trust (MHET) offers an assistance program that subsidizes rent for "qualified" mobile home owners, but Park Royale residents dismiss it as a sham, pointing out that the qualifications are so stringent that few, if any, residents receive assistance.
The $175 increase has already forced one Park Royale family to relocate, accepting the first cash offer for their home. Many others, like 5-year resident Catherine (who asked the Weekly not to share her last name) are considering relocating. She's worked for a major theme park for a decade but makes only $11 an hour and receives government assistance.
"My husband and I are seriously considering moving with our three kids to my dad's mobile home in Upland," she says. "The owners say they're raising [Park Royale's] rent for market value, but it's not even as nice as my dad's park. It's just dirt."