The Thousand Oaks City Council Tuesday night directed employees to again ask owners of the city’s five senior mobile home parks if they are willing to slash rent increases that are reeling their residents.
While acknowledging that this is a long way off, the council asked staff to interview four of the owners asking for an 8.5% increase and one asking for a 6% increase.
Employees have also been instructed to contact the owners of the city’s two family mobile home parks, who are also enforcing rent increases of 8.5%.
However, all of the owners have already told employees that they are unwilling to cut rents.
Owners are permitted to increase rents by up to 8.5% under the RV Park Rent Control Regulations based on the annual Consumer Price Index. You are under no obligation to lower them.
But the council thinks owners with their weight behind a second attempt this time could be ready to cap rent increases to 5% for next year, 1 November to 31 October 2023, as suggested by seniors in Mobile homes have done the advocating.
“I want to reassure residents that we will try,” Councilor Al Adam said at the council meeting. “But I don’t want to give people false hope.”
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Councilor Claudia Bill-de-la Peña said: “I appreciate that the staff asked, ‘Are you ready to cut?’ and they said, ‘No.’ They were a firm no.
“Perhaps there is a change of mind,” she said. “I don’t know. But we have to try.”
And with the council unanimously voting to try again, “they will see how serious we are about this,” she said.
Under the regulation, park owners can increase rents based on 100% of the Consumer Price Index, which measures the change in prices paid by consumers for goods and services.
According to the Federal Office for Labor Statistics, the index rose sharply by 8.5% for the year ended March. The increase was the largest in 12 months since December 1981, the bureau said.
Supply chain shortages, robust consumer demand and disruptions in global food and energy markets, exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, have pushed prices higher.
“Current economic conditions have affected most people in our community,” said a Thousand Oaks employee report. “Inflation is at its highest level in many years, and prices for food and gas for medical services have risen.”
Rent increases at the city’s mobile home parks have been much lower in recent years, ranging from 1.5% to 3%, said Thousand Oaks Assistant City Attorney Patrick Hehir.
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Residents at the ranch, Thunderbird Oaks and the adjacent Ventu Estates/Ventu Villas senior mobile home parks will see rent increases of 8.5% beginning November 1. Residents at the fifth senior park, Vallecito, will see a 6% increase.
Elms Plaza and Twin Palms are the two family trailer parks in the city that will receive an 8.5% rent increase.
Lakestone, the city’s third family trailer park, currently has no tenants.
The steep hikes have stunned senior park residents, many of whom live on Social Security alone. Many say they cannot afford the increases and fear they will lose their homes and maybe even end up on the streets.
Family park residents are generally better able to afford higher rent increases because they are still working and often have multiple sources of income because they live with others.
Elderly residents, mostly those of Ventu Estates-Ventu Village, asked for help from the council at its Aug. 30 meeting. The item was on Tuesday’s agenda for the council meeting.
“The city’s inaction will lead to more homelessness,” George Rosenthal, a resident of Ventu Estates, told the council in public comments. “Seniors on fixed incomes cannot work and will not survive. Please set a cap for the CPI for seniors.”
Rosenthal, who has rallied residents at Ventu Estates-Ventu Village, was one of about 12 residents from various RV parks who have asked the council for assistance with public comments. Dozens more were in the audience.
Residents of Ventu Estates-Ventu Village Parks own their homes. They pay rent for the land the houses are on. If they can’t afford the rent increase, they’ll be evicted from the park.
Susan O’Driscoll, managing partner of the Thompson-Allen Co., which owns Ventu Estates-Ventu Village, did not respond to a call Wednesday for comment.
Any changes to the city’s rent cap, including lowering the cap to 5%, would need City Council approval and would “raise significant legal considerations,” the staff report said.
Park owners, for example, have a constitutional right to a “fair and reasonable return on their investment property,” the report says.
Any changes to the current regulation would allow legal challenges by either party, according to the report.
Prosecutor Tracy Noonan told residents of the RV park Tuesday night, “We hear the pain. We hear the concerns you all have.
“You’re right,” she said. “8.5% is ridiculous right now. … But the city has very limited options in this case.”
Rosenthal said Wednesday “at least the council is trying to do something.”
If owners are unwilling to accept a 5% rent cap, perhaps the best solution for residents would be to wait until next year to see if the index falls below 5%.
The council directed staff to report the results of the latest survey of park owners at its Sept. 27 meeting. The Council gave no further guidance on the matter.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Mike Harris covers the East County towns of Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks as well as statewide transportation. You can reach him at [email protected] or 805-437-0323.
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