The Santa Barbara City Council is considering amending an ordinance to enact 10% vacancy control atop rent control in mobile home parks.
Vacancy control limits a park owner from raising the rent of the space/land when a new tenant takes possession of the mobile home on the space. In the proposed ordinance, the rent could only increase up to 10% when someone new moves in.
Santa Barbara County has 10% vacancy control.
Park owners can’t raise the rent on existing tenants. The current ordinance restricts raises above “three-quarters of the percentage increase in the Consumers Price Index since the date of the last rent increase” or 3% annually.
The proposed ordinance maintains the pre-existing rent control.
Property owners often use a change in possession to increase rental income where rent control has restricted desired increases in the past.
The new law would mirror the city’s 1984 mobile home ordinance, which a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled too strict. The court’s decision was that the regulation removes too much of the owner’s control.
The City Attorney’s Office believes a 1992 case out of Escondido overrules the previous verdict.
The city wrote an arbitration provision. It would allow owners to ask for leniency in order to get a return on their investment, though the profit owners are entitled to is ambiguous. Residents may also seek arbitration if they believe the property owners aren’t complying.
The owners of Flamingo Mobile Home Park feel the proposed ordinance is a second attack on their business plan, the park’s attorney James Ballantine told the News-Press.
The owners met with City Attorney Ariel Calonne and Ordinance Committee Chair Mike Jordan and gave suggestions. They said the proposed ordinance would restrict their return on investment.
The owners’ first proposal was that they would honor each homeowner’s initial purchase price when they offer to buy a resident’s home if the city did not enact vacancy control and allowed annual rent increases up to 5%.
The second suggestion was 20% vacancy control and rent increases of at least 6%.
Mr. Ballantine said the owners did not receive input after the proposals and did not hear back from the city. City staff did not recommend either alternative to the council.
He believes the city is not protecting affordable housing, as he has seen many homes on lots with rent and vacancy control sell for more than comparable homes.
Flamingo Mobile Home Park residents have expressed concerns that the new owners intend to buy up the homes and rent them to tenants.
Council will discuss the proposed changes during its meeting Tuesday at 2 p.m. The full agenda is available at santabarbaraca.gov/cap.
The meeting will be broadcast live on City TV Channel 18 and online at santabarbaraca.gov/cap.
To attend the virtual meeting and make a public comment, go to attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7527099791340500235.