Selma senior residents call for rent control

Mobile home park residents of McCall Village gather in city council chambers to draw attention to rising rents exceeding Social Security income

An overhead view of downtown in the city of Selma.
An overhead view of downtown in the city of Selma.
Darren Fraser
Published November 12, 2023  • 
11:00 am

SELMA – At the heart of Selma’s recent city council meeting, seniors living in a local mobile home park voiced their financial struggles, serving as a reminder of the city’s absence of rent control policies tailored to their specific circumstances.

At its Nov. 6 meeting, the Selma City Council listened to testimonials from seniors living in the McCall Village mobile home park regarding their financial hardships as a result of the city having no rent control policies that pertain directly to mobile home parks.

Theresa Salas lives in McCall Village. She said she brought the matter to the attention of the council at a prior meeting. Salas said individuals who live on fixed incomes have a difficult time making ends meet when rent increases outpace increases in Social Security income.

“Last year we received an 8% increase (from Social Security), but our rent went up by 7%,” Salas said. “Which means we had nothing.”

Salas reminded the council that residents in mobile home parks own their homes but rent the space.

“We can’t move our homes,” she said.

NO RENT CONTROL REGULATIONS

Selma Deputy City Manager Jerome Keene told the council that the city has no rent control regulations or rent stabilization measures other than what are mandated by the state.

“As far as the regulations in the city,” Keene said, “there are no adopted regulations for specific rent control on property within the city apart from those state laws that have been adopted.”

Keene informed the council he was there to discuss what possible actions the city may wish to take regarding local rent control or rent stabilization measures. Responding to a question from Mayor Scott Robertson, Keene said that the city cannot exceed the rent increase ceiling established by Assembly Bill 1482 for some rent-controlled properties, but the city can implement lower rent increase resolutions.

When asked by a council member if it is legal to specify rent control for a specific community, such as senior homes, Keene said he would defer to City Attorney Megan Dodd for the legal perspective but did say rent control measures tailored to a specific community may be accomplished through a city ordinance or via deed restrictions on properties.

“So, you do have communities established with deed restrictions, similar to affordable housing,” Keene said.

HEARING FROM MCCALL RESIDENTS

A crowd of about 40, many of whom live in McCall Village, attended the meeting. Jim Jackson, who is the president of Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League (GSMOL) – a statewide organization of mobile homeowners – said rent stabilization for mobile homes is completely different from apartments.

“It’s a whole new breed you might say,” Jackson said.

Jackson said because the laws regarding rent control for mobile homes are so murky, GSMOL is seeking rent stabilization, not rent control.

Jackson, who did not identify as a resident of McCall Village, said in his mobile home park, rent has increased from 3% to 7% over the past eight years.

“From $400 to $650 dollars a month,” said Jackson. “This is a senior park. People living on fixed incomes. Rent keeps going up but Social Security doesn’t.”

Betty Standridge lives in McCall Village. She informed the council that Fresno does have a rent stabilization policy for mobile homes. Standridge read portions of the policy.

Reading from the policy, Standridge said, “Approximately two-third of the residents of mobile home parks in the city are elderly. Approximately two-third are unemployed and in lower income categories. For these residents, there is no economically feasible housing alternative to mobile home park living.”

According to Standridge, because so few vacancies exist in mobile home parks in Fresno, the purpose of policy is “to protect mobile home park residents from excessive rent increases while at the same time providing mobile home park owners a level of rent sufficient to provide a just, fair, and reasonable return on their investment in a mobile home park property.”

Standridge also noted the conundrum mobile homeowners face is that as space rates increase above fair market rates, their mobile homes depreciate in value and lose equity while the land value increases and gains equity.

“For every $10 per month space rate increase, you lose $1,000 in mobile home equity,” said Standridge.

Numerous residents of McCall Village spoke at the meeting. Many who spoke echoed a similar story of having to pay increased rent as well as dealing with increased cost-of-living expenses while living on Social Security and fixed incomes.

After listening to the McCall residents, Mayor Robertson asked City Manager Fernando Santillan what action the city should take. Santillan said that due to the upcoming holidays, he expects the next step is for the city to investigate the matter.

“We can come back around February with more information,” said Santillan.

Darren Fraser
Reporter