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Affordability crisis hits LA's mobile home parks

Mobile home parks, like this one in Rowland Heights, have seen rents rise as vacancy rates plunge, according to L.A. County officials.
Mobile home parks, like this one in Rowland Heights, have seen rents rise as vacancy rates plunge, according to L.A. County officials.
Rina Palta, KPCC

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Los Angeles County officials say rising rents and low vacancy rates aren't limited to rental apartments— the affordability crisis is now hitting the region's mobile home parks. 

In response, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will consider initial steps for regulating mobile home plot payments at their meeting Tuesday. A proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn would instruct the county's planning department to draft a rent control ordinance for mobile home parks that fall on unincorporated land.

"Mobile home park residents are in a unique situation: They own their home but not the land underneath it, and a lot of these quote, 'mobile' homes are not actually that mobile," said Supervisor Janice Hahn. " It costs a lot of money to install it and more money to move it. So you can't exactly just get up and move."

Hahn said keeping mobile homes affordable is key to combatting the general housing crisis L.A. currently faces. 

Yolanda Viermas, who lives in a mobile home in Rowland Heights with her 11-year-old son, agreed with the sentiment. Affordability is the very thing that landed her in the mobile home after a bad divorce.

"It was an emergency," Viermas said. "My sister said, 'you know what, get a mobile home, it's lower rent.'"

Originally, she paid $850 each month. Five years later, she's paying $1,089, on top of covering trash, sewer, and other utilities.

Her son, who has autism, receives social security payments and Viermas receives a monthly allowance to care for him at home. She said the total barely covers rent. She currently takes the bus to her son's various appointments because her car broke down and she can't afford to fix it.

"We don't have for food, clothing, vacations, going out, nothing," she said. "Everything is for paying the rent."

Hahn said the county used to have a rent control ordinance in place, but it expired in the 1990's and wasn't reinstated. She said the county could look at that old ordinance for ideas on what to include with a new one, along with examining establishing some kind of commission to oversee price hikes and tenant-landlord disputes in mobile home parks generally. 

Jarryd Gonzales of the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association, which represents mobile home park owners, agreed that some sort of commission is a good idea. Rent control, not so much, he said.

"It's almost a knee jerk reaction to a bigger public policy issue, which is affordable housing," Gonzales said. 

He said mobile home owners were blindsided by the proposal and hope to be included in drafting any ordinance, should Hahn's motion pass.

"Our members are responsible, they're compassionate, and they've kept rents reasonable, annual increases are modest," he said. "There doesn't seem to be a need for rent control."

If the board approves her proposal Tuesday, the planning department would work up the details of an ordinance, which would then require final board approval.