Rent stabilization to roll into Selma mobile parks

Selma mobile home park residents see rent stabilization on the horizon after city council hears first reading of draft ordinance

Selma City Hall located at 1710 Tucker St., Selma, CA. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published June 11, 2024  • 
10:30 am

SELMA – Looking to provide relief for older residents living on fixed incomes, the city of Selma is moving forward with a mobile home park rent stabilization ordinance. 

Put together by city staff in response to direction from the Selma City Council, the ordinance aims to prevent steep increases in rent and promote open lines of communication between tenants and owners of Selma’s mobile home parks. Introduced by Deputy City Manager Jerome Keene at the June 3 council meeting, the ordinance received positive feedback from the council alongside requests for a few revisions. 

“I think it’s a good start, but getting everybody’s input, making our citizens happy is what’s the most important part, so hopefully we can get this cleaned up a little more,” Councilmember Sarah Guerra said.

Due to the more unique nature of mobile home parks, state rent stabilization laws do not apply to mobile home park tenants, who often own their mobile home but not the land it sits on. Instead, the issue is a matter of local control, meaning cities can choose to introduce their own laws. 

Mobile home park residents — many of whom are retired and living on Social Security income — came to the council in November 2023 asking for relief from burdensome rent increases. Since then, the city has been researching the topic and holding discussions with stakeholders to understand the community’s needs.

“Staff reviewed all of this information … to craft an ordinance through consultation with the city attorney’s office that resembles, we believe, a fair application of what the eventual goal was, which was to stabilize rents in mobile home parks and provide some transparency with regard to what should be limited … and what is maybe outside the control of the park owners,” Keene said.

At the heart of Selma’s rent stabilization ordinance is a limitation to how much a mobile home park can raise the base rent for its tenants. Defined as the rent charged only for the space a mobile home occupies, base rent does not include charges for utilities, park services, home occupancy or storage. Those additional costs combined with base rent make up the total “space rent” residents pay. 

The ordinance will limit base rent increases to 75% of the West Region Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 3%, whichever is less. City staff initially proposed limiting increases to the lesser of 80% of the West Region CPI or 5%, but the council requested to lower the limits after hearing resident feedback. 

By defining what the base rent does and does not include, Keene said the city was able to draft the ordinance so that it provides safeguards to residents while still allowing park owners to pass along cost increases for things outside of their control, like rising electricity rates. 

To further protect residents, the ordinance requires all costs included in the space rent to be itemized, allowing tenants to see the exact increases to outside costs. At past council meetings, residents have said they want more transparency in their rent increases to better understand how generally rising costs impact rent and mobile home park operations. 

“Everybody likes to use that word transparency — there’s absolutely no transparency at our park,” Teresa Salas, a resident of McCall Village, said. “We do not know what the trash costs, what sewer costs, what the water costs. … When we aren’t given that information, we have no way of saying, ‘OK, that’s fair or that’s not fair.’ With the rent stabilization, it puts those parameters in place for us to protect us.” 

Keene said the ordinance also differentiates between capital improvements and capital replacements that may be factored into overall space rent. Capital improvements, defined as improvements that add to the value of the property or adapt it to new uses, must be approved by a majority of park residents with the cost spread out over a set period when added into rent increases. 

Capital replacements, defined as the “substitution, replacement or reconstruction of equipment, machinery, streets, sidewalks, utility lines, landscaping (or) structures,” do not require resident approval before being added to rent increases. 

Resident Betty Standridge said her and her neighbors wanted to see the same checks and balances that apply to capital improvements be applied to capital replacements. Otherwise, she said the park owners could engage in costly and unnecessary replacements, such as rebuilding the pool or replacing the park gates, which “would add value to the park for the park owners only.”

“This park is already built, there will only be capital replacements going forward,” Standridge said. “They are not going to build any new capital improvements. What are we paying rent for? What are the park owners responsible for? … This ordinance should be fair and equitable for the senior residents as well as the owners.”

The Selma City Council unanimously waived the first reading of the new ordinance and set the second reading of the ordinance for June 17; if approved, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days later.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter