PanamaTimes

Monday, Feb 26, 2024

Rents spike as big-pocketed investors buy mobile home parks

Rents spike as big-pocketed investors buy mobile home parks

For as long as anyone can remember, rent increases rarely happened at Ridgeview Homes, a family-owned mobile home park in upstate New York.

That changed in 2018 when corporate owners took over the 65-year-old park located amid farmland and down the road from a fast food joint and grocery store about 30 miles northeast of Buffalo.

Residents, about half of whom are seniors or disabled people on fixed incomes, put up with the first two increases. They hoped the latest owner, Cook Properties, would address the bourbon-colored drinking water, sewage bubbling into their bathtubs and the pothole-filled roads.

When that didn’t happen and a new lease with a 6% increase was imposed this year, they formed an association. About half the residents launched a rent strike in May, prompting Cook Properties to send out about 30 eviction notices.

“All they care about is raising the rent because they only care about the money,” said Jeremy Ward, 49, who gets by on just over $1,000 a month in disability payments after his legs suffered nerve damage in a car accident.

He was recently fined $10 for using a leaf blower. “I’m disabled,” he said. “You guys aren’t doing your job and I get a violation?”

Joyce Bayles, 85, mows the lawn around her home in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in Lockport, N.Y. , June 23, 2022. The 85-year-old resident has taken to mowing her own lawn because crews for Ridgeview show up only monthly. Bayles is not participating in a rent strike with other residents of Ridgeview and doesn't want to get involved. "They're going to raise the rent and there's nothing I can do about it," said Bayles.

Jeremy Ward unloads groceries from his car to his home in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in in Lockport, N.Y., June 23, 2022. Ward is one of the residents at Ridgeview participating in a rent strike after new owners of the park announced they were raising rents by six percent. "I moved here because it's basically the most affordable living," said Ward, who is disabled and living off of a fixed income. The plight of residents at Ridgeview is playing out nationwide as institutional investors, led by private equity firms and real estate trusts and sometimes funded by pension funds, swoop in to buy mobile home parks.

Sharon Ruth shows a picture on her phone of water she collected that came out of her faucet in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in Lockport, N.Y., June 23, 2022, Since Cook Properties bought the community in 2020, residents complain that it hasn't been maintained as well as it once was and some of the homes are dealing with water and sewage issues.


The plight of residents at Ridgeview is playing out nationwide as institutional investors, led by private equity firms and real estate investment trusts and sometimes funded by pension funds, swoop in to buy mobile home parks. Critics contend mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are fueling the problem by backing a growing number of investor loans.

The purchases are putting residents in a bind, since most mobile homes — despite the name — cannot be moved easily or cheaply. Owners are forced to either accept unaffordable rent increases, spend thousands of dollars to move their home, or abandon it and lose tens of thousands of dollars they invested.

“These industries, including mobile home park manufacturing industry, keep touting these parks, these mobile homes, as affordable housing. But it’s not affordable,” said Benjamin Bellus, an assistant attorney general in Iowa, who said complaints have gone up “100-fold” since out-of-state investors started buying up parks a few years ago.

“You’re putting people in a snare and a trap, where they have no ability to defend themselves,” he added.

Driven by some of the strongest returns in real estate, investors have shaken up a once-sleepy sector that’s home to more than 22 million mostly low-income Americans in 43,000 communities. Many aggressively promote the parks as ensuring a steady return — by repeatedly raising rent.

There’s also a growing industry, featuring how-to books, webinars and even a mobile home university, that offers tips to attract small investors.

“You went from an environment where you had a local owner or manager who took care of things as they needed fixing, to where you had people who were looking at a cost-benefit analysis for how to get the penny squeezed lowest,” Bellus said. “You combine it with an idea that we can just keep raising the rent, and these people can’t leave.”

One of the entrances to the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in Lockport, N.Y. is shown June 23, 2022.


George McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, said about a fifth of mobile home parks, or around 800,000, have been purchased in the past eight years by institutional investors.

He was among those singling out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for guaranteeing the loans as part of a what the lending giants bill as expanding affordable housing. Since 2014, the Lincoln Institute estimates Freddie Mac alone provided $9.6 billion in financing for the purchase of more than 950 communities across 44 states.

A spokesman for Freddie Mac countered that it had purchased loans for less than 3% of the mobile home communities nationwide, and about 60% of those were refinances.

Soon after investors started buying up parks in 2015, the complaints of double-digit rent increases followed.

Jill Roberts poses for a portrait in front of her home in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in Lockport, N.Y., June 23, 2022. Roberts is one of the mobile home residents participating in a rent strike in reaction to a proposed rent increase being introduced by new owners of the property. Roberts, who has lived in her home since early 2020, says she has thought about leaving and is concerned about the clarity of the water in the park and recurring sewer issues.

Jahi Black, 7, uses a speed bump as a jump for his bike outside of his grandmother's home in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in in Lockport, N.Y., June 23, 2022, Despite 123 mobile homes being occupied in the community, there is no designated play area for kids.


In Iowa, Matt Chapman, a mobile home resident at a park purchased by Utah-based Havenpark Communities, said his rent and fees had almost doubled since 2019. Iowa Legal Aid’s Alex Kornya said another park purchased by Impact Communities saw rent and fees increase 87% between 2017 and 2020.

“Many of the folks living in the park were on fixed incomes, disability, Social Security, and simply were not going to be able to keep pace,” said Kornya, who met with about 300 angry mobile home owners at a mega-church. “It led almost to a political awakening.”

In Minnesota, park purchases by out-of-state buyers grew from 46% in 2015 to 81% in 2021, with rent increases as much as 30%, according to All Parks Alliance For Change, a state association.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, speaking at a Senate hearing this year, recalled tenants complaining of repeated rent increases at a Havenpark development in Great Falls. One resident, Cindy Newman, told The Associated Press her monthly rent went from $117 to nearly $400 over a year and eight months — equal to the increase over the previous 20 years.

On top of rent increases, residents complained of being inundated with fees for everything from pets to maintenance and fines for clutter and speeding — all tucked into leases that can run upwards of 50 pages.

Josh Weiss, a Havenpark spokesperson, said the company must charge prevailing market rates when it purchases a park at fair market price. That said, the company has moved since 2020 to limit its rent increases to $50-a-month.

“We understand the anxiety that any rent increase has on residents, especially those on fixed incomes,” Weiss said. “While we try to minimize the impact, the financial realities do not change.”

The mobile home industry argues the communities are the most affordable housing option, noting that average rent increases across parks nationwide were just over 4% in 2021. Spending on improvements was around 11%. Significant investments are needed, they said, to make improvements at older parks and avoid them being sold off.

“You have some people coming into the space that give us all a bad name but those are isolated examples and those practices are not common,” said Lesli Gooch, chief executive officer of the Manufactured Housing Institute, the industry’s trade association.

Both sides said the government could do more to help.

The industry wants Federal Housing Administration financing made available to residents, many of whom rely on high-interest loans to purchase homes that cost on average $81,900. They also want the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to allow housing vouchers to be used for mobile homes.

Advocates for residents, including MHAction, want lawmakers to put a cap on rent or require a reason for an increase or eviction — state legislation that succeeded in Delaware this year but failed in Iowa, Colorado and Montana.

They also want Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stipulate in loans they back that rents remain affordable. And they support residents purchasing their communities, which started in New Hampshire and has reached almost 300 parks in 20 states.

A Freddie Mac spokesperson said it has created a new loan offering that incentivizes tenant protections and last year made those mandatory for all future mobile home community transactions.

At Ridgeview, it’s unclear how the rent strike will be resolved.

David Harm waters plants outside of his home in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in Lockport, N.Y., June 23, 2022. Harm is one of the mobile home residents participating in a rent strike in reaction to a proposed rent increase being introduced by new owners of the property.

Sharon Ruth, left, and Sandy Lees pose for a portrait in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in Lockport, N.Y., June 23, 2022, Ruth and Lees, president and vice president of their neighborhood association, have organized a rent strike in reaction to a proposed rent increase being introduced by new owners of the mobile home park. "We want change," said Lees. "We need the place to be safe. We need the place to be healthy."

A child rides a bike down the street in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in Lockport, N.Y., June 23, 2022.


Cook, which claims to be the largest operator of mobile home parks in New York and has a slogan “Exceptional Opportunities. Exceptional Returns,” declined to comment. The company closed a $26 million private-equity fund in 2021 that purchased 12 parks in New York, but it was unclear if one of them was Ridgeview.

Residents, meanwhile, soldier on. Joyce Bayles, an 85-year-old resident has taken to mowing her own lawn because crews show up only monthly. Gerald Korb, a 78-year-old retiree, said he’s still waiting for the company to move an electric pole and transformer he fears could topple onto his home during a storm.

“I bought a place and now they are forcing all this on us,” said Korb, who stopped paying rent in protest. “They are absentee landlords is what they are.”

A line of manufactured homes in the Ridgeview Homes mobile home community in Lockport, N.Y., are seen June 23, 2022. For as long as anyone can remember, rent increases rarely happened at Ridgeview Homes, a once family-owned mobile home park in upstate New York. That changed in 2018 when corporate owners took over the 65-year-old park located amid farmland about 30 miles northeast of Buffalo. The plight of residents at Ridgeview is playing out nationwide as institutional investors, led by private equity firms and real estate trusts and sometimes funded by pension funds, swoop in to buy mobile home parks.

Newsletter

Related Articles

PanamaTimes
Apple warns against drying iPhones with rice
In a recent High Court hearing, the U.S. argued that Julian Assange endangered lives by releasing classified information.
Global Law Enforcement Dismantles Lockbit Ransomware Operation
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the Arctic prison colony
The President of Argentina Javier Mile does not fly private, he flies commercial, with the citizens he represents. And they LOVE him for it.
Bitcoin Reaches $50,000 for First Time in Over Two Years
Belo Horizonte: Brazil's Rising Carnival Hotspot for 2024
In El Salvador, the 'Trump of Latin America' stuns the world with a speech slamming woke policing after winning a landslide election
Tucker’s interview with Putin is over 50M views on X within the first 5 hours.
Finnish Airline, Finnair, is voluntarily weighing passengers to better estimate flight cargo weight
President Nayib Bukele has proudly announced El Salvador's remarkable achievement of becoming the safest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Former Chilean President Sebastian Piñera Dies in Helicopter Crash
This farmer seems to understand science a bit more than the event organizer, Klaus Schwab.
Facebook turns 20: From Mark Zuckerberg's dormitory to a $1trn company
The Coolest Dictator in the World" on the Path to Victory in El Salvador
Macron, France and fake news
Indian-Origin Man 'King' Arrested For Smuggling $16 Million Drugs Into US
Can someone teach Americans that not every person with slanted eyes is Chinese?
Europe's Farmers Feeding the People, Protesting Against Politicians Who Do Nothing for Their Country and Serve Only Themselves at Taxpayers' Expense
Paris Restaurant That Inspired 'Ratatouille' Loses $1.6 Million Worth Of Wine
Brazilian Police Investigate Bolsonaro's Son for Alleged Illegal Spying
Police in Brazil Raid Residence of Bolsonaro Associate Over Allegations of Illegal Spying
Border Dispute Escalates as Texas Governor Vows Increased Razor Wire
OpenAI Enhances ChatGPT-4 Model, Potentially Addressing AI "Laziness" Issue
The NSA finally acknowledges spying on Americans by acquiring sensitive data
Report Reveals Toxic Telegram Group Generating X-Rated AI-Generated Fake Images of Taylor Swift
US Border Patrol States 'No Plans' to Remove Razor Wire Installed in Texas
Bitcoin Experiences Approximately 20% Decline in Value
Klaus Schwab recently appointed himself as the Earth's "trustee of the future."
DeSantis Drops Out, Endorses Trump.
Nikki Haley said former President Trump is "just not at the same level" of mental fitness as he was while president in 2016.
Residents of a southern Mexican town set the government palace on fire in response to the police killing of a young man
Samsung Launches AI-Driven Galaxy S24, Ushering in New Smartphone Era
Judge Questions SEC's Regulatory Overreach in Coinbase Lawsuit
The Ecuador prosecutor who was investigating the television studio attack, has been assassinated.
Is artificial intelligence the solution to cyber security threats?
Vivek Ramaswamy suspends his US election campaign and endorses Trump.
Viral Satire: A Staged Satirical Clip Mistaken as Real Footage from the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos
The AI Revolution in the Workforce: CEOs at Davos Predict Major Job Cuts in 2024
Ecuador Reports 178 Hostages in Prison Gang Standoff
The Startling Cuban Espionage Case That Has Rattled the US Government
Two Armed Men in Ecuador, Dressed as Batman and The Joker Storm the Streets.
Armed Gang Raids Ecuadorian TV Station Following State of Emergency Declaration
Anti-Democratic Canada: Journalist Arrested for Questioning Canadian Finance Minister on Support of Terrorist Group
Ecuador's 'Most-Wanted' Criminal Vanishes from Prison
Mexican Cartel Supplied Wi-Fi to Locals Under Threat of Fatal Consequences for Non-Compliance
Border Surge Leads to Over 11,000 Migrants Waiting in Northern Mexico
Outsider Candidates Triumph in Latin American Elections
As Argentina Goes to the Polls, Will the Proposal to Replace the Peso with the Dollar Secure Votes?
Fatal Shark Attack Claims Life of Boston Woman Paddleboarding Near Bahamas Resort, According to Police
×