Huntington Beach City Council voted Tuesday to help seniors struggling with rising rental costs at local RV parks.
But it’s not necessarily the help they asked for.
In the absence of councilman Erik Peterson, the council directed city officials to phase out the city’s existing tenant-based rent assistance program, which is backed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, to provide rent assistance to low-income residents for a maximum of two years.
About $600,000 a year is earmarked for the TBRA program, but funds could instead be used for a mobile home rentals assistance program for senior citizens, Councilors Dan Kalmick and Councilors Natalie Moser said.
Employees were asked to review what the policies and procedures would be to establish a program that would assist seniors with their rental, including any changes required by the federal government to redirect funds from the TBRA and a plan for employees or a nonprofit partners to manage the program once it’s off the ground.
Kalmick and Moser have produced a report addressing some of the concerns raised by elderly residents who appeared in front of the podium, expressing fears that rising rental costs could soon force them out of Huntington Beach.
The report acknowledges that mobile home rent increases pose a particular challenge, as occupants own the physical home but not the land underneath.
“When the rent becomes unaffordable, picking it up and moving, like you might do with an apartment rental, is incredibly difficult. Either it’s too expensive to move a prefab home, or the home is too old to find a suitable spot in a nearby park with more affordable rents,” Moser and Kalmick wrote.
The report also notes that rents at these parks are increasing for a number of reasons, including the sale of entire parks, which can lead to property tax reassessments, rising operating costs and inflation.
Kalmick said he wanted to discuss what the council could do to help seniors without a large majority of Huntington Beach voters agreeing to a bylaw change.
Residents at Skandia Mobile Country Club, who have been claiming for months that the park would hollow them out by increasing land rental costs by $75 a month for the next three years, showed up for Tuesday night’s council meeting, urging council members to place a potential “Carveout” measures for rent on the ballot.
The city passed Measure EE in 2002, which bans rent stability ordinances, but RV parks would be exempt if a majority of Huntington Beach voters passed a “carveout” measure.
Arthur Estrada, a Huntington Beach resident, said during a public comment Tuesday that city council members “presented themselves as sympathetic to our plight,” but he felt nothing had actually been done to address the issue.
Estrada pointed to the Huntington Beach Mobile Home Advisory Board’s recommendation in April that a proposed “spin-off” of Section 803 of the city charter be sent to the city council for review.
That bylaw amendment was not discussed Tuesday night with any of the other bylaw amendments proposed for the November vote this year.
“What is the difference between an indifferent council majority and a benevolent majority when nothing is achieved?” asked Estrada.
“Put yourself in our shoes,” Estrada said. “They just seem to want us to sit there and take it. Is this the hard truth you’re giving us? Is that your idea of representation? Please do not give in to predatory park owners and allow them to continue to abuse us. Any temporary action you take is just that—temporary. We need more.”
Kalmick said Tuesday’s discussion focused on paying the rent rather than trying to lower it.
“It’s not the panacea. It’s not a panacea, but it’s a solution that this … council can achieve without a hard-fought political battle with money we’re not necessarily spending right now,” Kalmick said. “…That buys us some time to help the people who are going to see these rent increases, the massive inflation that’s coming through. They can apply for and receive this grant if they qualify for income.
“We understand that nobody wants to pay rent anymore. Nobody wants to pay more rent, but we think it quantifies and qualifies the needs of the people who need that support.”
Moser said the problem of rent increases isn’t just local to Huntington Beach, as some residents noted in their comments, but he agreed a local solution was needed.
“What this is doing, or what this is proposing, is to give a little space to give the people who are directly affected by this a little breathing space so maybe this bigger issue can be addressed,” Moser said.
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