Mobile home owners uniting for proposed rent controls

A statewide grassroots movement for rent control in manufactured home parks is gaining momentum.

Worried park residents packed the clubhouse at Butte Crest Park in Eagle Point on Sept. 19 for the second local meeting of the Oregon Manufactured Homeowners United, to hear Peter Ferris, executive director and lobbyist, talk about escalating rents and the House Bill he is authoring for the 2011 legislative session.

Mostly seniors, the park residents from throughout the county listened to Ferris discuss the urgent need to unite in fighting unfair rent increases from, many times, out-of-state park owners. These investors are snapping up parks in Oregon because there are no laws protecting park residents from rising rents.

Activist and meeting organizer, Monika Sayre, spoke of a $95 monthly increase in a 12 to 13 month period in Butte Crest Park. Patricia VanEvera said Leisure Days in Shady Cove saw a 31 percent increase of $60 a-month in one year after a Californian purchased that park. A concerned Lou Burnham from the same park said, “We do not know what our rent will be next year.” Ferris, also a park dweller, stressed, “Apartment rents are market driven and are going down but our rents are going through the roof.”

Unlike apartment renters, park residents cannot simply move if the rent becomes too high, said Ferris. They either have to sell their homes or abandon them. In most parks there is a rule against renting out homes. And in these economic times, selling is not a viable option. In the Upper Rogue, large numbers of park homes are for sale, with few being sold.

Ferris reminded those present that residents pay taxes and that cities need affordable housing. Where are the people going to go if they cannot stay in their homes, Ferris queried? He went on to answer the rhetorical question by pointing out people may end up in nursing homes or under the bridge—homeless. Some residents are already choosing between paying the rent and buying medicine.

Residents own their homes while the land is the park owner’s investment. But as rents are increased, land values go up and home values go down. And in some cases, out-of-state corporations sit on the parks until they can “flip” them and sell to developers. “We are the hottest investor’s market,” stated Ferris.

He spoke of three park closures near Beaverton. It is a poignant document of what can happen and how desperate and dire our times are. “We have to tell city and county officials what will happen if a park closes.” Those entities will have to pick up the pieces, Ferris warned.

In 2007, ordinances were grandfathered in that Oregon City, Wilsonville, Forest Grove, Bend, Eugene and Clackamas County used to protect homeowners when parks close in those jurisdictions. Instead of the $5,000 to $7,000 homeowners get in the rest of the state, homeowners in those communities get full market value, relocation specialists if the resident is able to move the home and a stipend for movers of household goods. Ferris asked, “Is your home worth more than $5,000 or $7,000? “A lot more,” was one emphatic reply.

An unpaid lobbyist, Ferris outlined four steps park residents can take to get “The Manufactured Home Community Preservation Act of 2011″ passed by the legislature. “Wake up, get smart, get tough and get united.” If we do that, there is a good chance to pass the rent justification bill, he said.

The basics of HB90.600 include one rent increase a year with a 90-day required notification. Homeowner Associations may appeal if 50 percent plus one find the increase excessive. In that case an arbitrator is selected to hear the pros and cons and give a ruling within 90-days. The losing party pays the arbitrator’s fees. In the case of arbitration, the owner must justify the increase. Businesses expenses, a fair rate of return on the owner’s investment and a 5-year rent history are all criteria to be considered in the decision.

“We have the opportunity to make a difference,” declared Ferris to the responsive crowd. He urged those present to contact their legislators and to offer candidates in favor of rent control, a vote in the 2010 primaries.

At the end of the meeting, many joined OMHU, paying the $25 annual fee,  hopeful of rent control. For information on OMHU contact Monika Sayre at 826-2139 or Peter Ferris  at (541) 272-1648 or bumpy73@yahoo.com. The OMHU website is www.omhu.org. 
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent

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