Sunday, February 12, 2017

Soaring Housing Prices, Salivating Real Estate Developers Drive Extinction Of Palm Beach County Mobile Home Parks, Leaving Lot-Leasing Homeowners Feeling Squeezed-Out

In Jupiter, Florida, the Palm Beach Post reports:
  • Mobile home parks are the Florida panthers of Palm Beach County.

    Once thriving and common, the parks were a dream come true for regular Joes. The average working person or retiree could afford to buy or rent one and live comfortably in one of the quirky named parks like Yogi By the Sea in Juno Beach or Maralago Cay in Lantana.

    Last [month's] tornado brought into focus how that lifestyle may be headed toward extinction. As developers buy up mobile home parks and north county’s housing prices soar, affordable mobile home parks may not be around much longer.

    That’s what several Juno Beach Condo mobile home park residents off U.S. 1 told me as they sifted through their torn off roofs and busted windows. Still, despite the damage, they aren’t budging.

    “I like it here. My friends are here,” 83-year-old Marthe Savard-Stranix lilted in her French-Canadian accent as she put her groceries away in her tidy kitchen after the storm. A blue tarp was on her roof and her carport was smashed by the 80-mile-per-hour winds.

    Like the panthers running out of open land, these folks are seeing the mobile home parks vanish to higher-density development.

    Why?

    The parks are on big pieces of land. They are on main roads. They have existing entry/exits. The infrastructure — drainage, electric, water — is in place. Some have boat docks. The zoning usually is commercial or multi-family, which is what the developers need.

    When Ocean Breeze townhouses replaced the Floridian mobile home park in Juno Beach a few years ago, urban planners call it infill development.

    To the family whose home is snatched away, it’s called “Hey, what happened to my affordable housing?”
    ***
    So who is to blame for this vanishing dream?

    Bashing developers is too easy. They go where the money is.

    The government tries to help. Florida offers mobile home moving expenses up $6,000. But that’s not much in Palm Beach County.

    The mobile home owners have painted themselves into a corner. Many live in units built long before Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances, even Andrew, brought stronger building codes. The homes, like the ones in Juno Beach, get their roofs torn off and windows smashed when storms hit.

    And many only own their mobile homes. They rent the lot. When the park sells, [...], they get evicted. Many end up just walking away, because those old mobile homes are too old to move.

    Like the panther, these residents are running out of places to live.

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