The housing crisis in Southern California has made mobile homes an important affordable housing resource, but these homes have traditionally been left out of legal services housing advocacy. NLSLA is spearheading efforts to protect these homes across the region, and its advocacy recently halted the closure of a 60-year-old mobile home park in Carson.
Rancho Dominguez has 81 mobile homes, and most of them are owned by the low-income, elderly and disabled residents who have lived there for decades. The mobile home park is in a part of Carson that now prohibits residential properties, but the city had, for 35 years, granted the park an exemption from that rule. When that exemption expired in 2012, the residents of Rancho Dominguez were left in limbo. They lived with the constant threat of the park’s closure, and the fear that they could, at any moment, lose the only homes they could afford.
A few years ago, the park owner began the closure process. Under state law, he is required to compensate residents for the full value of their home if they are unable to move that home to another park. The city is then required to determine whether the compensation is adequate, and whether the closure of the park would create a loss of affordable housing within the city.
The Rancho Dominguez homes are old, and none of them could be moved. The park owner proposed to compensate the residents at a fraction of the full value of their homes, underestimating the value of some homes by as much as $100,000. Making matters worse, the residents were not provided with Spanish-language copies of the appraisals used to value their homes, or the proposal for compensation the park owner filed with the city.
The city held a hearing that provided little meaningful opportunity for the homeowners to challenge the plan. Then it approved the closure, despite the unjust appraisals and its own finding that the closure would create a loss of affordable housing in Carson.
NLSLA helped the homeowners appeal the city’s decision. When that appeal was rejected, we took the case to court, seeking to overturn the city’s actions. We argued that by failing to legalize the park’s use, the city was responsible for presenting its own compensation plan and should never have permitted the park owner to do so in the first place. The court agreed, and rejected the city’s approval of the park closure, saving the homes of 81 households. Any future effort to close the park will need to be made by the city—an unlikely scenario that would carry a significant political and financial burden for any city official. Predictably, the city has given no indication that it intends to renew plans for closure.
Rancho Dominguez is one of several mobile home parks that NLSLA is fighting to protect. Our growing advocacy in this area is preventing homelessness and financial instability, and forcing officials to treat these properties as a critical affordable housing resource that we cannot afford to lose.