Orange Mobile Home Residents Need Your Help For a Rent Control Initiative in November

Mobile home owners across Orange County have been fighting for their survival against developers for years. Orange mobile home residents have recently joined the fight by protesting rent increases and forming the City of Orange Mobile Home Coalition (COMHC), a collective of local mobile home residents addressing "pertinent legal and political matters."

The coalition's biggest challenge so far has been gathering enough signatures supporting a rent stabilization initiative. They need about 12,000 signatures (15% of registered voters in Orange) by November 1st to compel Orange council members to accept the initiative as is or call for a special election. If the coalition gathers about 7,000 signatures (roughly 10% of the electorate), the initiative will instead qualify for the 2018 elections. As of right now, the coalition only has about a thousand signatures and a dozen volunteers.

Why the slow progress? According to COMHC secretary and member of the Golden State Manufactured Home-Owners League, Ron, (who asked the Weekly not to use his last name) many of the coalition's few volunteers are mobile home residents who are also handicapped senior citizens or military veterans. Their physical limitations can be a challenge when collecting signatures for hours on end in front of supermarkets or walking through residential neighborhoods. With November elections quickly approaching, the coalition is in desperate need of more volunteers and signatures to stand a chance in pushing their rent stabilization initiative. 

Ron also says high-end apartment buildings by Park Royale Mobile Home Park and other areas in Orange are "kind of taking over" and pushing out long-time mobile home owners. "We feel like we're under the microscope to be a lucrative spot for development," he says. 

Some residents are even reconsidering their ownership of a once-affordable mobile home because they're becoming more of an economic burden with little homeowner protection left. "It's either a mortgage or rent, we don't want both," Ron says, "It feels like a conflict of property right where one owner has a more power than the other."

Steep rent increases such as the $175 rent hike late last year at Park Royale Mobile Home Park are becoming a harsh reality for most mobile home residents in Orange—the majority of which, according to Ron, live off of fixed or low incomes. Recently, residents at Santiago Creek Orange Estates received rent increase notices too along with a "rent credit" program offer that many residents view as punishment for their ballot efforts. 

The Weekly obtained a copy given to a Santiago Creek Orange Estates resident (who wished to remain anonymous) notifying them of a $40 rent increase starting November 1st and an additional increase called a "Vega Adjustment," which the letter stated allows "owners of rent controlled properties…to increase 'base year' rents to reflect general market conditions, if those base year rents are significantly below market.

"Despite the parkowner's [sic] willingness to keep rents significantly below market," the letter continued, "an effort is currently underway to adopt rent control through the initiative process….If rent control is adopted in the City of Orange, the rent credit program will terminate effective immediately." 

Aimee Molsberry, President of Santiago Communites, Inc. and whose name is signed at the bottom of the rent increase and rent credit notice, did not respond to our e-mail or voicemail by the time this story went to press. 

Kathy Watson, a resident of Santiago Creek Orange Estates, says some residents were confused by the notices especially the "rent credit" offer leaving residents hesitant to sign onto the program. She says a rent stabilization initiative is needed because some of her long-time neighbors are quickly losing their ability to afford their increasing rents. Some Santiago Creek residents have outlived their 401(k), work two or three jobs, are senior citizens or military veterans—and in some cases they're even both. 

"We're not trying to say landowners shouldn't make a profit, just stay within the CPI [Consumers Price Index] and don't make us walk away from our homes." Watson says. "We don't know what to do," she adds, "we just hope the City of Orange helps us." 

To contact  The City of Orange Mobile Home Coalition e-mail Or*******@ya***.com or follow them on Facebook. The City of Orange Mobile Home Coalition will be collecting signatures from registered Orange voters at the Village at Orange mall on August 20th and 21st . Find them all day around the Wal-Mart and the north end of the mall.  1500 East Village Way., Orange. 

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