Nita Bill, MHP Secretary / Treasurer and (on right) Sharon Rose, Executive Director
By Elena Richardson, Grants Program Manager for the Fund for Santa Barbara
From Casa Magazine published December 6th, 2014.
Sharon Rose, Executive Director of the Mobile Homeowners Project (MHP), moved to Santa Barbara in 2005 and worked for the County’s Public Health Department. She hoped to buy a condo, but after discovering the city’s steep housing costs, she realized “what a joke that was,” and instead invested in a mobile home park in Old Town Goleta.
Soon after moving to her new home, Ms. Rose started hearing about the threat of “condo conversions” in a neighboring park in Goleta, Rancho Mobile Home Estates. Ms. Rose bought her home for $100,000 and leased the land on which it sat. Under the existing law, the park owner could subdivide the lots and charge residents upwards of $250,000 for each individual lot. Contrary to popular belief, “mobile” is a misnomer. In most cases mobile homes cannot be moved, which is why the preferred term is manufactured home. This law could leave her homeless.
After her first year in the park, Ms. Rose quickly found a need for her skills in research, education, outreach, and public policy, and started organizing fellow residents to oppose unnecessary fees, advocate for a clean community room and engage in political advocacy campaigns in the park.
In 2009, Ms. Rose founded the Mobile Homeowners Project (MHP), a grassroots advocacy group, supported in part by grants from the Fund for Santa Barbara. Most recently, MHP was awarded a three-year general support grant.
According to data released by the City of Santa Barbara, median rent in the city is $2,200 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, requiring an annual income of $91,000. “That’s far beyond the reach of many who work in town, making mobile home parks an increasingly important housing option,” says Ms. Rose. “We’ve got professionals in [parks], firefighters, nurses, and teachers.”
Ms. Rose wants residents to know that, unlike other forms of housing, mobile home parks are governed by Mobile Home Residence Law (MRL) rather than Landlord Tenant Law (the MRL Handbook is available bilingually and free of charge at www.hcd.ca.gov). By forming homeowners associations (formal or informal), electing officers, and holding meetings, residents of mobile homes have been able to obtain legal help in cases involving billionaires, she says.
Last September, MHP and mobile home park residents throughout California won a major victory when SB 510 was passed. The law allows local government to disapprove of a conversion if a majority of park residents oppose a sale. For five years, MHP organizers worked in coalition with the Golden State Manufactured Home-Owners Leagues (GSMOL) for this win. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), and Ms. Rose advocated heavily for it.
While the fight to protect mobile homeowners’ rights is far from over, Rose and other MHP organizers are confident their growing grassroots membership and connections with larger coalitions will continue to serve residents in their battle for one of the last frontiers for affordable housing. “It’s how we get things done,” Ms. Rose says. “It’s how you inform and protect yourself.”
For more information, please contact MHP at www.mobilehomeresidents.com, Sharon Rose at (805) 324-2151, or the Golden State Manufactured Home-Owners League at www.gsmol.org
By Elena Richardson, Grants Program Manager for the Fund for Santa Barbara____________________________________________________________________________________