Mobile Home News
News / Consumer

Encinitas considers how to control price

July 12, 2006
A corner of paradise for only a slice of the price most working mortals have to pay.

This is Kari Kozlowski's world in Carlsbad and Chris Carbonel's hope for the future in Leucadia.

Chris Carbonel (left) and Jerry Abels are residents at The Sands, which is fighting its owner to keep rents affordable. Some residents are trying to buy their spaces. It is mobile home living by the sea ? a few minutes from the beach, breathtaking sunsets, the sound of breaking surf and a constant ocean breeze on days when inland residents might bake under a 95-degree sun.

All that for a fraction of the $1 million that their next-door neighbors paid for their stately homes.

?Where else do you find this on the coast? Not unless you have millions of dollars,? said Kozlowski, 32, showing off her beach view, a good-sized back yard, and her happy 5-and 7-year-old son and daughter, who said they love Lanikai Lane Mobile Home Park in Carlsbad.

Her happiness is despite the real bottom line: mobile home mortgages and park space rentals continue to increase, rivaling payments for small condominiums.

Still, mobile homes are a preferred alternative for thousands along the coast.

At The Sands in Leucadia, where resident Laureen Chipps washed her car, the 47 homeowners formed The Sands Residents Inc. after what they said were two unreasonable rent increases. Encinitas is considering ways to keep mobile homes affordable. In Oceanside, 17 parks house 2,500 units. In Carlsbad, at least four parks provide 1,300 homes, and in Encinitas, 11 parks are home to roughly 700 mobile homes.

Solana Beach has an all-but-abandoned mobile home park where two residents remain. Del Mar has no mobile home parks.

Along the coast, only the city of Oceanside controls mobile home rents, keeping them in the $250 to $550 monthly range. In Carlsbad and Encinitas, rents are fair game.

To keep mobile homes affordable in Encinitas, the City Council will consider tonight whether to pay a consultant that specializes in mobile home issues $35,000 to take inventory of the city's mobile home parks.

The survey would determine the number of existing mobile homes, ownership, rents, prices, demographics and pertinent local and state laws.

Once the study is done, the council will decide if and how the city can keep mobile home parks affordable. State law defines ?affordable? as rent or mortgage payments within 30 percent of a household's income.

Encinitas principal planner Dave de Cordova said any rent regulations might be limited to units the city helped renovate or purchase.

Price comparisons
Mobile home affordability is one of comparative economics, according to statistics collected by the San Diego County Apartment Association, the North San Diego County Association of Realtors, and Gwynne Hodge, a Carlsbad Realtor who also is chairwoman of the nonprofit Mobile Homes Coalition. The coalition advocates mobile homes as a solution to the county's affordable-housing crisis. Consider the costs of living in a mobile home versus a house or condo:

Along the North County coast, a three-bedroom apartment or home rented this spring for $1,545 per month in Oceanside and $1,865 in Solana Beach.

In Oceanside, the median price for a single-family home last month was $500,000 and a condominium was $300,000. Homes in Encinitas and Carlsbad fell in the $700,000 to $900,000 range, and the median price of a condominium in Solana Beach was $800,000.

By contrast, a 1,300-square-foot mobile home in a resident-owned space ranges in current listings from $200,000 in Carlsbad and Oceanside to $380,000 in Carlsbad. Some decades-old trailers without the typical luxury standards of new mobile homes ? 10-to 12-foot ceilings, granite countertops and fireplaces ? advertise for as low as $64,000.

Current real estate listings show that prices are more varied for mobile homes in rented park spaces.

The asking price for a 900-square-foot mobile home built in 1970 is $25,000, plus $475 in monthly rent, in Encinitas.

But a newer, 1,120-square-foot mobile home in Carlsbad near Ponto Beach lists for $350,000, with a monthly rent of $850.

Mortgage interest rates can be significantly higher for mobile homes than for condos and houses. Mobile home interest rates range from 6.25 percent to 15 percent, according to sales agents and industry associations. That compares with current interest rates of 6.25 percent to 6.72 percent for a fixed 30-year home mortgage.

In general, the older the mobile home the higher the interest rate. Ditto for a mobile home in a rented space.

Some residents on fixed incomes say they may not be able to continue to depend on mobile homes as affordable housing.

?It's a precarious situation,? said Tim Sheahan, president of the San Diego County chapter of the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League, which represents mobile home residents in California.

?If the rent keeps going up, you lose all your equity in your home.. That's why it is so important to have rent control.?

Home buyers
Some residents have solved the problem by buying their park. At Park Encinitas on El Camino Real, residents, who must be 55 or older, bought the park in 1984. Lanikai Lane residents are attempting to do the same, negotiating with their landlord to purchase the park. Space rent there is about $775 to $850 a month, the mobile home park's manager said.

At The Sands in Leucadia on North Coast Highway 101, the 47 homeowners formed The Sands Residents Inc. recently after what they said were two unreasonable increases that brought their rents from $675 last year to $875 this year.

Those residents are expected to ask the Encinitas council tonight to control rents or buy the mobile home park and resell it to residents. The park's owner is asking $225,000 for each space, but no one can afford the price, said Carbonel, vice president of the association.

In a rent-increase notice, The Sands' resident managers stated that park improvements are costing more and the increasing demand for vacation homes near the ocean has boosted the value of the spaces. The park's owner did not return a telephone call last week.

Carbonel said residents are in a bind because they cannot move their two-story mobile homes to another park because many parks do not take older structures and the homes are not sturdy enough to withstand the move. In the end, Carbonel said, many will be forced to abandon their investments.

?It has gone from a great place to wondering what (the park owner) is going to do next to hurt us,? association President Jerry Abels said.

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