Monday, January 09, 2017

Aging, Landlord-Owned Mobile Home Parks Leave Lot-Leasing Homeowners Set Up For Failure

National Public Radio has recently published a two-part report on conditions at mobile home parks throughout the United States.

Part 1 focuses on what happens when mobile home park owners/landlords fail to take care of their communities. Part 2 looks at what happens when residents are able to take ownership over their community.

An excerpt from Part 1:
  • Tachell and Bonsall say living in Syringa has been a blessing — but over the years, it has also become a curse. Since the 1980s, this community of roughly 100 houses has been plagued repeatedly by drinking water problems — including periods with contaminated water or no water at all.(1)

    Rivers of raw sewage have occasionally gushed out of the ground and formed stinky ponds around homes. One resident has filled a cardboard box with videocassettes that he shot to document some of the incidents. Conditions in the neighborhood have become so bad that some people have abandoned their houses and moved out.
    Residents say there's one main reason why they have had problems for so many years: Syringa is a mobile home park.

    The federal government estimates there are more than 8 million "manufactured houses" (which is what the government has called mobile homes built since 1976). Housing specialists say they play an important role in "boosting affordable home ownership opportunities," according to a Ford Foundation report.

    But the decades-old saga of Syringa Mobile Home Park and other evidence suggest that the legal and financial ways in which manufactured housing communities are set up often turn the residents into victims.

    Carolyn Carter, an attorney and deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center based in Boston, says the heart of the problem with manufactured home communities "is that the residents don't own or control the land beneath their homes."

    When you buy a home in a manufactured housing community, you own only the home's structure — the walls, roof and floor. But a private company or investor owns all the land.

    Homeowners pay rent to hook up the house there. Typically, the community owner, not the local government, is also responsible for its roads and utilities. The less money the community owner spends maintaining them, the more profit their business can make.

    The owner is the "lord of the manor," Carter says, "and basically doesn't have to pay much attention to the folks who are living there."

    Of course, there can be water and sewage problems in traditional neighborhoods, too. "But you elect the public officials who oversee them, and so you can hold those officials accountable," Carter says.

    The chronic problems at Syringa echo what has been happening at manufactured housing communities across the country.
For more, see Mobile Home Park Owners Can Spoil An Affordable American Dream.

For Part 2, see When Residents Take Ownership, A Mobile Home Community Thrives.
(1) Water & sewer problems are a major issue for lot-leasing homeowners in aging mobile home parks. For another example, see Water quality issues in Livingston: 'Infrequent' but real:
  • Five small drinking water systems at three residential [mobile home park] communities and two businesses in Livingston County have had violations related to lead testing since 2010, according to Environmental Protection Agency data compiled by USA Today. [...] In one of those cases, issues with arsenic in the water supply has landlords involved in an ongoing Michigan Department of Environmental Quality enforcement case.