“I Can't Afford It”: Tenants Say Rent Hikes Could Put Them on Street

Residents say unfair rent increases at Santa Clarita mobile home parks are threatening to put them on the street.

Senior citizen Mildred Ballace says the owners of Parklane Mobile Estates have raised her rent between 3 percent to 6 percent annually in recent years. But Ballace lives on social security income, which has risen by less than 2 percent annually since 2013, thanks to annual cost-of-living adjustments.

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"It's hurting a lot of people," Ballace told the NBC4 I-Team. "They can't afford it and I can't afford it."

Ballace and other tenants of Santa Clarita’s 16 mobile home parks have been urging the city to lower the allowed annual rent hike to zero.

"The seniors on fixed incomes are soon going to find themselves out on the street, with nowhere to go and no one to help them," said Ballace’s daughter, Elaine.

Santa Clarita Councilman TimBen Boydston says he’s made efforts to cap annual space rental increases at mobile home parks.

"There have been some very large increases in the past," Boydston said.

Currently, property owners are guaranteed the 3 percent increase, but they can raise fees even more to recoup on capital improvements.

Boydston recently proposed capping annual space fee increases at 2.6 percent.

His idea was met with an 80-page letter from the law firm representing mobile home park owners, warning them to “consider this … a threat of litigation in respect to the mobile home park rent control law if amended as currently proposed.”

NBC4's calls to the law firm and to Parklane Mobile Estates were not returned.

Doug Fraser also lives in a Santa Clarita mobile home park, and has been fighting for a cap on rental space fees. He pointed out that for 16 of the last 25 years, the guaranteed 3 percent annual increase has exceeded cost of living increases.

Fraser feels Councilmember Boydston’s proposal of a 2.6 percent annual cap doesn't go far enough.

"The compromise spot would be 1.5 percent. Bring the 3 percent down to 1.5," Fraser said.

Boydston admitted to the I-Team that Santa Clarita City Hall is concerned about mobile home park owners filing a lawsuit, which could "burn through tons of taxpayers’ money."

But in the battle of its "citizens versus property owners," he insists the city cares for both.

Ballace says her government should care about her more, since she's whom they represent.

"If they asked me or told me they were raising the rent 1.6 percent, I’d say OK, but not 3 percent. That's a lot of money," Ballace said.

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