Let’s be totally clear: the proposal for a vacancy decontrol amendment to Oceanside’s current rent control ordinance retains full rent control for the current residents. Their rent will not be raised beyond what the current ordinance calls for and they will be protected as long as they live in their current space. Rents will only be adjusted to market rate when a new tenant takes over the space.
Rent control is a bad deal for the taxpayers of Oceanside. Over the past 20 years the city of Oceanside has spent over $3 million on litigation and administration of the Mobile Home Rent Control Ordinance, including $325,000 that was transferred from general fund reserves to the Mobile Home Program Fund. These are tax dollars that should go to fund our basic services, libraries and recreation programs.
Rent control laws governing mobile home parks has also “confiscated” a portion of the park owner’s equity in the property and transferred it to tenants. Rent controls constitute a “regulatory taking” because the regulation has unfairly singled out mobile home park property owners to bear the burden to subsidize below market rents. It is also not known how many of the current residents would qualify for housing assistance since there is no means testing for space renters. In fact, some mobile homes are not even the primary residence of the tenant, but are used as second homes or vacation residences.
That being said, it would be unfair to the current mobile home park residents to end rent control abruptly. They have paid a premium for their coach to have a rent controlled space and they should be entitled to maintain their current status. Vacancy decontrol takes away the sting of rent control by providing an avenue for property owners to realize the value of their investments while protecting current residents.
Most economists agree that “a ceiling” on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing availability. This is evidenced by the fact that since rent control has been instituted no new mobile home parks have been built. In fact, one park has closed, one is in litigation currently to convert to a condominium-type arrangement, and another park owner may file a closure plan as early as this summer. Additionally, because of a constrained revenue stream the current parks continue to defer maintenance and deteriorate.
Assertions that under vacancy decontrol residents can’t sell their coaches are exaggerated. To claim that the park owners will raise the rent so high that the spaces will sit empty flies in the face of all economic reasoning. Escondido has had vacancy decontrol for years and it has proven that there is still a resale market. The truth is that rents are still affordable and the parks are better maintained because the owners have to compete for residents.
Vacancy decontrol is fair, reasonable, and equitable. It protects the interest of the current residents while reassuring the park owner a future market-based return on their investments.
Filed Under: Community Commentary