Results of a study conducted on the demographics of Calistoga’s mobile home parks will be useful in securing future assistance programs for the seniors who occupy the parks, officials learned at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Paid for through a grant obtained by Calistoga Affordable Housing, the study found that 82 percent of the senior citizens living in the mobile home parks in the city classify as lower income with 29 percent in the extremely low category and 31 percent in the very low category.
Presenting an overview of “Study of the Long-Term Viability of Calistoga Mobile Home Parks as Affordable Housing” was Lucina Vernazza of Vernazza Wolfe Associates, the group that prepared and oversaw the study.
The study revealed that more than half of the seniors in the mobile home parks spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and of that group 13 percent spend half their income on housing expenses. Financial experts recommend that about one-third of income should be spent on housing, meaning Calistoga mobile home park seniors are cutting back in other living expenses to afford their homes.
The study largely confirms what officials in the city already guessed, that the senior population in Calistoga needs help with affordable housing.
“The more you dig down the worse it is than you thought,” Vernazza said.
Though the city has a rent stabilization ordinance, the study confirmed that a good portion of the residents live on fixed incomes that don’t keep up with the allowable rent increases.
Dean Moser, general manager of HCA Management, which manages Rancho de Calistoga, one of the senior mobile home parks, questioned the survey’s sampling numbers, suggesting that the study focused only on the low-income population and ignored the moderate- and higher-income homeowners, some of whom are part-time occupants of the park.
“It was a random selection. It was a scientific study,” said Larry Kromann, president of Calistoga Affordable Housing, who indicated later that he is a former statistics teacher at the university level.
The sampling conducted was greater than most political polls taken, Vernazza said, adding that they actually over-sampled Fair Way Manor, the only mobile home park in the city that is open to all ages.
At least one speaker suggested the report name may be slightly misleading in that it didn’t offer a conclusion to whether mobile home parks are a long-term viable solution to affordable housing in the city. But Vernazza said the focus was on gathering data that could be used for future opportunities to assist the senior community with affordable housing.
Kromann suggested folding the raw data collected from this study into a survey soon to be conducted by the county as well as submitting the data to the U.S. Census. It is valuable information that can ultimately assist Calistoga in securing county, state, federal and other funding that can help seniors live within their income.
“We need the leverage of that data to get the county’s services,” Kromann said.
Helping seniors get financial assistance with purchasing food or medications could ease the burden of rising rental rates at the mobile home parks by giving them a little more wiggle room in their budgets, Vernazza said.
The city may also explore some sort of rent subsidy programs.
Kromann has been working for three years on getting this study done; it took that long to get funding and all the pieces in place to make it happen. Because the senior community is growing, the council said it understood the urgency in acting quickly and directed city staff to investigate how to best utilize the data collected to move forward with setting up programs or other measures that can assist the mobile home park community continue to afford the rent in the parks.
Vernazza said she was unable to find another such study conducted by any other city in the immediate area, and noted that Calistoga has a “unique” situation in that mobile homes make up almost 24 percent of all housing units in the city, higher than all surrounding cities, she said.
“This makes it a primary source of affordable housing. Though it is not designated as such, it is the de facto. It is the only designated senior housing in the city,” she said.