116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Almost two years later, residents in manufactured home parks are still fighting for the same protections we began fighting for during the legislative session of 2019.
We encouraged our state legislators to join residents in a forum this past Jan. 5. And many did. We have been able to hear from residents of manufactured home parks across the state. This is not about abuse by one owner, but rather by several out-of-state corporations and private equity groups. They target states with lenient or no laws to protect residents, buy up properties and raise the rent, sometimes 60 percent or more. It creates a high profit margin for them and their investors.
I told senators and representatives that were able to join us for the forum that my neighborhood is just like their neighborhood. I know these people. The man next door that was born with no hands and no feet. The retired vet that travels through the community on his motorized wheelchair. The young families with young children and those children that gather at the end of the street to shoot basketball on a summer evening. And, like me, my retired neighbors.
We tell our stories, and along the way, our cities, counties, hometown businesses and churches become part of our fight. We pick up allies as we make people aware. They see us as people worthy of rights that we have earned. Our stories ensure that people know us, they call us neighbors. They see us as productive members of our community. Our stories are evidence that we've tried, even if the legislation doesn't go anywhere. Some days the work is discouraging.
Most residents in a manufactured home park have purchased and own their own homes. And in many cases they purchase them from the new park owners. Common sense would say that you would not incur the expense of $50,000 to more than $100,000 with the expectation of being evicted in 60 days! These are not 'mobile” homes. They are manufactured homes and in some cases it is either too expensive to move them or they cannot be moved.
Our once affordable housing communities are fast becoming a place we do not recognize They are no longer a safe and healthy environment for some residents. And rapidly they are becoming anything but 'affordable” as well.
We have asked legislators for rent protection. No limit exists on the amount of an increase and the only limit on the frequency is a 60-day notice, which could result in several increases in a one-year period.
Second, we have asked of our legislators for a 'good cause eviction” law. Owners must be required to show good cause before evicting a resident. These standards must be consistent and enforced across the state.
Residents are asking for fair and reasonable fees. And fees should be tied to a good cause so the system is not abused by park owners to circumvent the rent protections or to target particular families for eviction. These limits must be set statewide.
The state must require a lease that spells out the park owner's responsibilities to maintain a clean and safe park and prohibit abusive lease provisions. It is imperative that the state adopt a clear, effective mechanism for enforcing these guidelines and requiring owners to remove illegal provisions from the lease.
And to prevent a mass displacement of low-income Iowans and destruction of affordable housing stock, local residents must be offered first right to purchase when their communities are up for sale. Current owners should be barred from evicting residents for a period long enough to allow residents to pursue local ownership. And if the residents are forced to move as a last resort, owners profiting from the sale of the park must be required to provide significant relocation assistance.
One of our state representatives noted at a recent subcommittee meeting that owners are not the only ones with an investment in this scenario. And he indicated he was willing to work with both sides to find a more balanced solution to this issue.
This is what we're asking for: Limitations on rent increases, good cause evictions, fair fees and fair, legal leases and rights of first refusal to purchase the community. We are hoping Iowa legislators can see our need and help us keep and feel safe in our homes.
Candance Evans of North Liberty is vice president of the Golfview Residents Association.