A study of the long-term viability of Calistoga’s mobile home parks as affordable housing was released by the city recently, continuing the ongoing discussion of addressing a growing need in the region.
The purpose of the study was to fully understand what the situation is among seniors and low-income families in the city, officials said.
“We all make assumptions and we think we know what the situation is,” said Mayor Chris Canning. This study will either validate or contradict those assumptions, he said.
“It will give us a starting point to have the dialogue (on affordable housing), and determine the next steps.”
Canning and the other City Council members will hear a presentation and discuss the study at their next meeting on July 15, he said.
The study, which was paid for through a grant secured by Calistoga Affordable Housing, indicated that 82 percent of the senior citizens living in the mobile home parks are classified as lower income; 29 percent are in the extremely low category and 31 percent fall into the very low category. For a household size of one, extremely low income is set at $18,100 or less; very low income for one person is $18,101 to $30,150; and low income is $30,151 to $46,050. More than half the households in the senior parks are occupied by one person.
Of the respondents surveyed in the senior parks, 88 percent receive Social Security and 19 percent of those rely solely on those benefits for their income.
One of the more troubling aspects that had been suspected by city officials is that seniors are spending more than the best-practice of one-third of their income on housing. More than half of the senior community in the parks spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and of that group 13 percent spend half their income on housing expenses, the study showed. Those who spend 30 percent or less are among 37 percent of the households among the parks.
These and other data underscore the belief city officials already had that seniors and low-income families in the area are financially stretched beyond their limits.
There are four mobile home parks in the city, three of which — Rancho de Calistoga, Chateau Calistoga and Chateau Springs — are restricted to residents age 55 and older. Fair Way Manor, the fourth park, is open to all ages.
The 556 spaces at these parks account for about 24 percent of the city’s 2,319 housing units.
In the senior parks, 65 percent are occupied by one person and the average age is 76. The largest age group is 80 and older. More than half the residents have lived in their mobile homes for 10 or more years.
At Fair Way Manor there are more people living under one roof than at the senior parks, largely due to families, with the average household size just over three people; 36 percent of households there have four people in one home.
The average age is 48.4 years old, with 36 percent age 40 or younger and another 36 percent between 60 and 70 years old. More than half the residents in Fair Way Manor have lived in their homes for 10 or more years.
A large portion of the residents there, 72 percent, sit in the extremely low or very low income bracket.
“The fact that many of the Fair Way Manor residents spend a lower percentage of their incomes on housing expenses is due in part to the fact their monthly housing expenses are generally lower than senior park residents,” the report said.
Residents at Fair Way Manor pay an average of $511 for space rent and utilities compared to $689 for the senior park residents.
The report had few revelations in it, though Lynn Goldberg, planning and building director, said she was surprised to learn that a number of spaces are occupied part time, potentially meaning they are second homes to those mobile home owners.
After the council hears the report at the July 15 meeting, it may choose to direct city staff to implement suggestions and recommendations in the study that include connecting residents to other resources such as CalFresh (food stamps) or rent subsidy programs to help ease the financial stress on residents, or look for more ways to offer assistance.
The findings will also be considered for incorporation into the pending Housing Element Update, Goldberg said.