Mobile home space renters protest at Vallejo City Hall
Several Vallejo mobile home park residents met at “high noon” on the steps of City Hall on Monday, to protest what they say in an ongoing disinterest in their problems by City officials.
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen | firstname.lastname@example.org | Vallejo Times Herald
UPDATED: October 15, 2018 at 5:50 pm
The half dozen or so Vallejo mobile home residents who gathered on the steps of City Hall on Monday say the city’s Housing Authority is completely unresponsive to their concerns — an allegation its interim housing manager rejects.
It’s the third such protest this year, organizers said.
“You can’t reach anyone at the Vallejo Housing Authority,” protest organizer and Vallejo Mobile Home Coalition (VMC) official Terri Pohrman said. “We get better results reaching out to Napa Fair Housing. They know housing can mean life or death. (Vallejo housing officials are) not doing their job.”
Several of those gathered in front of City Hall said Housing Authority officials don’t return calls or answer questions or take an interest in problems brought to their attention.
“Housing is a big crisis right now, and too many people don’t understand that, and people don’t know who to turn to for help.” said Pohrman, who publishes the monthly Vallejo Area Mobilhome Magazine.
A woman connected with the subject of mobile home living, who asked not to be identified, said she’s aware of mobile home residents and other renters who have received notices of significant rent increases despite this being illegal in the wake of Gov. Jerry Brown’s disaster declaration following last year’s wildfires. That declaration was supposed to limit rent increases to no more than 10 percent at least until December, the woman said.
“The Housing Authority would be where people would go with complaints like this, but they can’t get any help there,” she said.
This is also true for more mundane complaints like parks not being kept clean and utility meters possibly being misread, Pohrman said.
City officials say they’re on top of the issue.
“We worked extensively with mobile home park tenants, owners and the city council on a revised rent control ordinance, which was put in place last November, and it was amended again in May,” Interim Housing Manager Will Morat said.
This action was required following the discovery that the city had inadvertently repealed its rent stabilization ordinance for mobile home parks in April 2016.
“The housing division has responded to every notice we’ve received from people who’ve claimed high-rent increases,” Morat said. “There have been no cases we’ve documented of illegal rent increases.”
Some of the city’s most economically vulnerable renters aren’t buying it.
“I believe we need some representation at City Hall, and I don’t believe we’re getting that,” said Vallejo mobile home owner Chuck Harris, who was at Monday’s protest with his wife Belen. “We’re left in the dust when it comes to money.”
Harris said that he’s still working at age 74, mostly because he has to, though doing so also keeps him occupied. He’s not sure where he and his wife will be if or when he can no longer bring in income as rents on the space his mobile home sits on continue to rise.
“The poor are expendable, I’ve learned,” he said. “Without good representation from our elected officials, you find out how bad it can get. The city really falls down in the area of housing for the poor. Empty promises is all we get.”
Mobile home residents tend to be hard-working, law-abiding citizens, Pohrman said.
“Most of these people are working two jobs and are still barely hanging on,” she said. “People thank me all the time for what the VMC does. Without this, we’d all probably be living in a homeless shelter.”
Morat said city officials “continue to welcome documentation (of wrongdoing on the part of mobile home park and other rental owners), and we’re happy to follow up.”
Deane Sargent and PMC Financial Services have been helping mobile home park resident groups and cooperatives to organize and find financing to buy their parks for over 20 years.