Rent Stabilization for Floating Homes — Please Help the FHA Offset the Cost to Get This Key Bill Passed

A new day is dawning for floating homeowners | photo by Melanie Rovens | post by Larry Clinton

On September 28, Governor Newsom approved a law that will protect 477 floating home owners from sharp increases in the rents they pay for legal berths on San Francisco Bay. Its two main provisions limit annual berth rent increases in certain San Francisco Bay Area floating home marinas to the lesser of (i) 3% plus the cost-of-living increase and (ii) 5%, and prohibit marina owners from increasing berth rents for floating homes that are sold. These provisions apply to Bay Area floating home marinas in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin Counties, where floating homes are concentrated on San Francisco Bay.

The bill was drafted and introduced by Assembly Member Mia Bonta (D-AD18 Oakland). Assembly Member Marc Levine (D- AD10 Marin-Sonoma) and State Senators Mike McGuire (D-SD2- Marin, Sonoma and North Coast) and Nancy Skinner (D-SD9-Oakland) joined as co-authors. The Marin County Board of Supervisors, Alameda County Supervisor Brown, and the mayors of Alameda and Sausalito urged the legislature to extend, by law, the same rent protections now in place for mobile homeowners in 86 communities in California to floating home owners on the Bay.

Private owners of mobile homes and floating homes are required by law to keep their homes in permitted parks and marinas, where those homes are served by public utilities maintained by park and marina owners. Mobile home owners are protected by law against steep increases in space rents. Floating home owners historically were not, but the number of available floating home berths has been capped by a state agency, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

“These homeowners can easily lose the ability to afford their housing in the face of steeply rising berth rents in the Bay Area, and the resale value of their home could fall significantly if the berth rent becomes unaffordable,” wrote Supervisor Katie Rice, President of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, on behalf of the five-member Board, (on July 12th) in a letter to Assembly Member Mia Bonta.

Bonta introduced AB 252 on June 16, saying: “Currently there are no state-level protections from excessive rent increases, and there is no place to move a floating home; when rents become unaffordable, floating home owners are especially vulnerable. If this is not remedied, residents on low or fixed incomes will be displaced.”

Bonta’s legislative initiative was sparked by berth rent increases in an Alameda floating home marina earlier this year by as much as 178%. The Alameda City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft, moved quickly to include floating homes in the City’s rent control program. The rent increases were demanded by new owners of Barnhill Marina, signaling the arrival of a nationwide trend identified by a Harvard housing study of the American rental housing market in 2022: over 26% of the rental housing of all types in the United States is owned by business entities, not—as once was the case—by individual property owners.

The Alameda City Council voted unanimously to protect floating home owners from rent hikes that averaged 76%. But floating home communities in Sausalito and Richmond were still vulnerable, so a Bay Area Floating Homes Association was formed and asked state legislators for help. Members of the Sausalito Floating Homes Association (Sausalito FHA) actively participated in the new association and the legislative effort.

“We want to thank Governor Newsom, Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, Alameda Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft and all the Bay Area legislators for their efforts to protect seniors and other vulnerable residents and allowing us to remain in our homes,” said Liz Williams, Founding Member, Bay Area Floating Homes Association.

The bill was endorsed by the ACLU, Housing California, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA), and East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), among others.

AB 252 is effective January 1, 2023, until January 1, 2030.

According to CoinNews the percent change in the Consumer Price Index (or cost of living) has only exceeded 5% twice in the past 40 years, and in many years has hovered around 2%. Under the new law, when the cost-of-living increase is 2%, a rent increase of no more than 5% could be charged, and if the cost-of-living increase is greater than 2%, the rent increase could still not be more than 5%.

This legislation was approved without objection by the Sausalito FHA board and endorsed by a broad range of civic and non-governmental organizations, including the Marin County supervisors. It passed the state Assembly and Senate with little opposition.

The Bay Area Floating Homes Association retained the firm of Nossaman LLP to help frame this legislation and shepherd it through the state legislature to the governor’s desk. As a 501(c)(4) mutual benefit nonprofit, the Sausalito FHA agreed to advance payment of the firm’s $25,000 fee. Several of the organizers of this effort from all three floating home communities have contributed over $14,000 to offset that expense. If you would like to donate toward the remaining amount due, you can send a check to the FHA at PO Box 3054, Sausalito, CA 94966. Please write AB252 in the memo line of your check. Or you can donate by credit card or PayPal via the FHA website.

If you have questions about this legislation, please send them to the FHA.  Questions will be answered in the Floating Times.