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Amid Housing Crisis, Is State Sticking up for Mobile Home Park Residents?

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Residents protest the takeover of their Fresno trailer park by Harmony Communities in 2022. (GV Wire File)
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It’s no surprise that California has an affordable housing crisis. It has squeezed 500,000 people out of the state and forced tens of thousands onto its streets.

But there’s an oft-overlooked group of Californians — 1.6 million of them — who live in mobile home parks. They tend to be older and poorer than the average renter, so the parks — where rent can be a little more than half the monthly housing cost of a single-family home — are a last refuge. And some of their residents are living in squalor.

In a five-month investigation, CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias uncovered questionable state oversight of mobile home parks across California. Focusing on a park on the outskirts of Stockton, she met residents who had to wade through pools of putrid brown liquid for months.

  • Bobby Riley, an 87-year-old resident: “It was even terrible in here. It was just shit everywhere.”

Among Manuela’s key findings:

  • State inspectors, who rely mostly on complaints filed by residents, visited 91% of parks in the last decade, but only half were full inspections and 330 parks weren’t visited at all.
  • The state housing department conducts parkwide inspections for about 3,700 parks, while city and county governments oversee another 800.
  • State law only outlines a goal, not a requirement, for parkwide inspections at 5% of mobile home parks each year, meaning that a park could go as long as 20 years without a full inspection.
  • Former state Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino: “Obviously the percentage, five percent, is not enough…. It’s ridiculous. Ridiculous. It’s laughable.”

Other findings from Manuela’s investigation:

  • Between July 2019 and October 2022, the state received at least one complaint from the public at 1,730 parks.
  • Of the roughly 5,700 complaints that CalMatters reviewed, less than half received a response within five days, about a quarter took three weeks or longer and 3% of complaints did not get a state response for three months or more.
  • The state is limited in what it can do when park conditions get really bad. It can prohibit park owners from collecting rent until owners fix the problems, but bringing in civil action falls to the city or county district attorney’s offices.

A representative from the state’s housing department, however, defended the state’s oversight:

  • Kyle Krause, deputy director of codes and standards at the state housing department: “I think things are working, and they’re maybe frustrating for some and maybe painful for others, because it takes time for those violations to ultimately be corrected. But there are proper tools in place for all those things to happen.”

Take a deep dive at this CalMatters link.

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