Affordable housing: Rep. Khanna meets with Sunnyvale mobile home owners
Rep. Ro Khanna met Tuesday with a group of Sunnyvale mobile home owners who say changes made by park ownership have made their homes unsellable and threaten their ability to stay in one of Silicon Valley’s last affordable housing refuges.
“I was very outraged,” Khanna said after the meeting. The congressman has already introduced a bill that would regulate rents and selling rights at mobile home parks, but on Tuesday he urged the Sunnyvale City Council to pass its own legislation to protect mobile home residents, potentially including rent controls.
“I’m going to be pushing the Sunnyvale city council, advocating for them to act and act strongly,” he said. “This is about economic justice and housing justice in the heart of Silicon Valley.”
The meeting at the Plaza Del Rey mobile home park was attended by about 70 residents upset by rising rents, as well as Sunnyvale’s mayor and some city council members, the South Bay congressman said.
Park owner Hometown America said in a statement that it is “working in good faith with residents and the City to find a compromise that brings certainty and stability back to the market. We’re happy to say we’re making progress on that front.”
Fred Kameda, who has helped organize residents at the park, said he was happy with the vocal support from Khanna at the meeting.
“It was just more than we expected. It was a strong voice of support,” Kameda said.
The 95-acre mobile home park has 812 homes and was purchased by the Chicago-based Hometown America from private equity Carlyle Group in 2019 for $237 million.
At a protest earlier this month, homeowners said changes begun by Carlyle and continued by Hometown America have made their homes far less attractive to buyers, forcing some to reduce their sale price by as much as $100,000. At the heart of the disagreement is the monthly rent charged to new residents for the lots on which the mobile homes sit. Kameda said that cost has risen to $2,380 a month, which is significantly higher than other nearby mobile home parks. In some cases that’s more than double what the current residents pay.
Kameda also said annual rent increases have affected some existing residents on fixed incomes. “They’re having to choose between how much groceries they can buy or their medications,” he said.
This isn’t Khanna’s first effort to legislate protections for mobile home park residents. A bill he proposed in early 2020 would have created a grant program from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department to help residents put a down payment toward purchasing home parks when they come up for sale. He’s reintroduced that bill, adding measures to limit rent increases and increase rights for residents trying to sell their mobile homes.