Residents of Petaluma trailer parks gained more safeguards this week, as the city council there became the latest in Sonoma County to strengthen rent controls at mobile home parks.
The unanimous vote largely makes permanent rules hastily enacted more than a month ago, as park owners sought rent increases amidst nationwide inflation. Until May, rent increases were limited to 6 percent or 100 percent of the increase of the consumer price index, whichever is less.
Now a maximum of 4 percent or seventy percent of the CPI, whichever is less, Monday night's vote made that permanent.
The new rules are largely in line with ones adopted in Santa Rosa, Windsor, Sebastopol and Rohnert Park. And they add more pressure on the county to codify similar rules for unincorporated areas. The board of supervisors is expected to take up the issue in coming weeks.
Officials are also looking at a possible future zoning change to make it more difficult for senior citizen parks to drop age restrictions.
Jody Johnson, resident of a park that changed hands, said the new owners there were trying to offset their investment with large rent increases and a conversion to an all ages park. She accused the owners of retribution against organized tenants.
"The attempted conversion to all ages park immediately is a deliberate retaliation for us advocating, and you passing much needed rent stabilization revisions. This puts extreme hardship and stress on every senior citizen and actually petrifies them, that they are going to be pushed out to the curb."
Not everyone agrees. Calling the council's direction misguided, resident Salo Landano claimed rent control efforts always fail.
"It never works and it always leads to lower housing stock and poorer living conditions."
Park owner Nick Ubaldi says he's considering drastic measures.
"We are currently managing properties with aging infrastructure while dealing with escalating expenses, however, it seems that the decision to impose additional restrictions on rent increases, keeping them below C.P.I. will have unintended consequences. As I'm sure you're aware of, we have hired a consultant to assess the feasibility of closing our mobile home park. We believe this to be our only viable course of action. We are concerned that if not addressed, these changes will suffocate our business and render our property virtually worthless."