Crowley trailer park residents seek relief
By Katie Vane
Tuesday night the Mono County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting at Crowley Community center to discuss the possibility of rent control at Crowley Lake Trailer Park.
Fortunately I showed up early, or, like many of the mobile home residents who came to voice their opinions, I would have been 30 minutes late. The Board changed the meeting time at the last minute from 6 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“We were going to have a report prepared,” Board and Vice Chair Duane “Hap” Hazard explained, “but the issue is much more complicated than we anticipated.” Instead, he said the Board thought this would be a good opportunity for the public to speak their minds regarding the issue of rent control. Odd then that the Board bumped the meeting time up without informing that public.
Crowley Lake mobile home resident Donnette Huselton heard about the rescheduling and came prepared with a statement. “We’re supposed to be a low-income park,” she said. “But the people that live here can’t be low income anymore, because of the rent.”
Her rent was $170 when she moved into the park in 1988. In the past three years it’s gone up $110, rising between 5-8% per year. Now it’s closer to $600.
With rent control, yearly increases would be capped at 1-2 percent by county ordinance. One rent-controlled mobile home in Mammoth hasn’t raised its rent in two years. This Mammoth park also boasts a recreation room, pool, and timely snow removal.
Huselton pointed out that, though she didn’t know whether rent increases had anything to do with services offered at the park, “When we were paying lower rent three years ago, we were getting just as bad service.”
Lack of service has left the park with trees in need of trimming, roads in need of repaving, and a wait time for snow removal that “endangers lives.”
Supervisor Tom Farnetti sought to steer other speakers off the topic of services — which might not be an element in rent inflation — by asking, “Does management tell you what formula they use to increase rent?” The answer was a resounding “no.”
As mobile homeowner Nancy Mahannah wryly pointed out, “None of us would be here if everything was hunky dory in terms of communication with the management.”
Further illustrating her point, not one member of the management made it to the meeting, at 5:30 or 6 p.m.
What quickly became clear was that no one knew what is actually causing rent escalation in the park. Some wondered if their rent was rising because of ostensible changes in services; others wondered if perhaps rent raises had more to do with increases in property tax.
But no one knew quite how property taxes for a trailer park might be assessed—per parcel, or per entire lot of land.
And apparently, according to Supervisor Bob Peters, property taxes also depend on how the property was purchased originally. With no one from the management available to clarify, these questions remained unanswered.
At least one Crowley Lake Trailer Park resident had a question that seemed simple enough to answer: “What does it take to get rent control instituted?” Hap Hazard had an equally simple answer: “That’s what our staff is looking into.”
However, he added, it’s possible that rent control is an issue decided at the state level. Or it could be decided at the county level. In any event, the staff should sort all of this out soon. How soon? One month, residents were told.
“We had a discussion on ordinance in June Lake, and it lasted almost eight months,” cautioned Supervisor Vikki Bauer. Heartening news for residents struggling just to make this month’s rent.
In the meantime, Bauer encouraged residents “to get together and see what you can do to influence and change services.” As it turns out, many of these same homeowners have gotten together once before, about 15 years ago.
“We did form a Homeowners Association,” one resident recalled, “but management ended it with threats.”
At least Hazard concluded the meeting on an empathetic, if not entirely hopeful, note. “I lived in mobile home 118,” he told the crowd. “It was affordable housing for me, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I know the issues, concerns, and fears that you have. I also faced escalating rent, and the potential to lose my house.”
Here’s hoping the Board staff gets its research done in a timely manner, so homeowners such as the current residents of 118 have a chance to hold onto their affordable homes.