EL MONTE (CBSLA.com) — Some mobile home residents in El Monte are afraid they will lose their homes if Measure “F” does not pass.
One member of the E Monte City Council told Randy Paige, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, that she is squarely behind the homeowners.
Sandi Witt lives in a modest trailer. And huge rent increases could force her into the streets.
She’s been a resident of El Monte for some time. “My son planted that peach tree when he was 3-years-old, he’s now 44.”
Her mother paid cash for the property in 1973. And she put her last savings into the home.
Witt says, “I have sold everything that I own to pay the rent here.”
For her 12 x 50 foot space, at the Brookside Mobile Home Park, Witt pays nearly $1200 a month rent. Her total monthly income is only $900.
She is scared. “I don’t know what else to do.”
Reports Paige, Witt is not alone.
He talked to a group of Brookside renters and asked how many were in the process of losing their homes. Many hands went up.
Tenants here, even longtime tenants, cannot afford the rate hikes, reports Paige. One goes into effect this week: From $1256 to nearly $1500 — a 17.9 percent increase.
He also spoke to a single mother of three who was paying $1700 a month — including her utilities.
Everything she makes, goes to rent. “For Christmas I can’t buy toys and gifts…I cant celebrate birthdays for my kids. Nothing Because I don’t have money for nothing.
And Paige says, “And you lost your home?”
The mother replies, “Yeah, I lost my home.”
Why are El Monte City leaders allowing landlords to charge so much for so little?
The answer, reports Paige, stems from a ballot measure first passed in 1990.
Called “A Mobile Home Tenant Rent Assistant Program” — it promised a 10% discount from the monthly rental for disabled and senior tenants.
Buried deep in the fine print, the so-called rent assistance program states, “any landlord shall have the sole right to establish the price.”
City Council Member Norma Macias says, “Legally, they’re allowed to charge as high as they want.”
The average rent for a mobile home park is about $500 a month. At Brookside it’s about $1,200 — often more than double.
Macias says the tenants can’t afford the rent and they can’t afford to move. And many of the older model homes, can’t be moved at all.
She says the paperwork tells the story.
It shows in one case, how a mobile home was purchased by Park Management for $50 then sold to a new tenant for $25,000 — that tenant ended up evicted. That home is now vacant.
Paige asks Macias, “Do you believe the owners of this park are forcing people to abandon their homes … buying them at a very small rate and then re-selling them for a huge profit?”
She replies, “I absolutely believe that’s what’s happening… It breaks my heart. It’s a very sad thing that’s happened to these people. It’s wrong and it should be illegal.”
Macias is behind Measure “F” — on the ballot next Tuesday. If passed, it will dissolve the 1990 ordinance and allow city officials to investigate the high rents at parks like Brookside.
The campaign to defeat Measure “F” urges a no vote “to protect seniors who would lose their existing rent subsidies if Measure “F” passes.”
Barbara Trigg, a disabled Brookside senior, says a 10% discount provides little relief in the face of skyrocketing rents. Hers is over $1,200 a month.
Paige asks Trigg if the measure is to help seniors. And she said, “It’s not true.”
He asks her if she could find something cheaper to rent. “I probably could but someone else would own the walls — and I own these walls. That’s the difference. This is mine.”
Sandi Witt misses her late mom — she’s been gone seven years — and the idea that she might have to lose her home is causing her much upset. “I miss her terribly. My next move is under the 605 freeway.”
Randy Paige requested an on-camera interview with Brookside owners Jeffrey Kaplan and Tomas Tatum and their management company. They declined.
Paige was told to submit his questions in writing. He complied with a list. (Click here for the questions and E-mails.)
For information about Brookside, click on the following three documents.