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Outrage: Mobile-Home Parks Face Condo Battle

Under California law, local rent control laws are void once a park is a condo property.

A California law designed to protect hundreds of thousands of residents living in mobile-home parks is now being used as a weapon against them.

The law, which streamlines the conversion of mobile-home parks to condominium properties, was intended to help people who rent their lots to buy them, gaining collective control of the park.

Mobile-home residents have condoed 150 parks on their own initiative, gaining the protection that comes from owning the land where their homes sit.

But now, at least a dozen park owners are moving to convert their parks to condo properties whether the residents want that or not. Park owners say the conversions are a win-win: they make money and residents can own their lots. Moreover, the valuable land remains a mobile-home park rather than being sold to developers.

But many residents cannot afford to buy their lots. The big catch: Under California law, local rent control laws are void once a park is a condo property. More than 100 California towns and counties have rent controls for park lots to preserve them as affordable housing.

While low-income mobile-home owners have some state rent protection, others of modest means do not.

"Most of us can't afford the $100,000 to $200,000 a lot could cost," says Diane Shepard, 69, who resides in a 100-unit park for retirees in Sonoma County. She lives on Social Security alone and would get state rent protection. "But we have a number of older people here who live on modest pensions and can't afford to lose local rent control and see their rents go up by hundreds of dollars a year."

So far, only one park owner in the state has completed a conversion to condos, but the push is on, says John Tennyson, a legislative consultant for manufactured housing.

While local officials scramble to pass ordinances declaring a moratorium on conversions, park owners are countering with lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the state legislature is considering several bills, pro-owner and pro-resident, on the issue. "This promises to be a very big battle," Tennyson says.

A California law designed to protect hundreds of thousands of residents living in mobile-home parks is now being used as a weapon against them.

The law, which streamlines the conversion of mobile-home parks to condominium properties, was intended to help people who rent their lots to buy them, gaining collective control of the park.

Mobile-home residents have condoed 150 parks on their own initiative, gaining the protection that comes from owning the land where their homes sit.

But now, at least a dozen park owners are moving to convert their parks to condo properties whether the residents want that or not. Park owners say the conversions are a win-win: they make money and residents can own their lots. Moreover, the valuable land remains a mobile-home park rather than being sold to developers.

But many residents cannot afford to buy their lots. The big catch: Under California law, local rent control laws are void once a park is a condo property. More than 100 California towns and counties have rent controls for park lots to preserve them as affordable housing.

While low-income mobile-home owners have some state rent protection, others of modest means do not.

"Most of us can't afford the $100,000 to $200,000 a lot could cost," says Diane Shepard, 69, who resides in a 100-unit park for retirees in Sonoma County. She lives on Social Security alone and would get state rent protection. "But we have a number of older people here who live on modest pensions and can't afford to lose local rent control and see their rents go up by hundreds of dollars a year."

So far, only one park owner in the state has completed a conversion to condos, but the push is on, says John Tennyson, a legislative consultant for manufactured housing.

While local officials scramble to pass ordinances declaring a moratorium on conversions, park owners are countering with lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the state legislature is considering several bills, pro-owner and pro-resident, on the issue. "This promises to be a very big battle," Tennyson says.

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