Government

Iowa lawmakers set weekend hearing on mobile home rent increases

An empty lot stands June 11 where a mobile home tenant moved away once residents were notified that their lot rent would
An empty lot stands June 11 where a mobile home tenant moved away once residents were notified that their lot rent would increase at the Golf View Mobile Home Park in North Liberty. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

A bipartisan panel of Iowa legislators will get a head start on an issue left over from their 2019 session when they take public comments this weekend on double-digit rent increases by out-of-state landlords of manufactured housing communities.

The lawmakers have been working on the issue since the Iowa Legislature adjourned in late April after a proposal to address the rent increases of as much as 69 percent at manufactured housing park died in the final hours of the session.

The hearing will be “an opportunity for the public to weigh in on how these proposed changes would affect them and specifically why we need reform,” said Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville. “I thought it was important that we give residents the opportunity to speak up.”

The hearing will be 1 to 3:45 p.m. Saturday in the state Supreme Court chambers in the Iowa Capitol. Legislators as well as representatives from the office of Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Finance Authority are expected to attend.

“The hope will be that coming out of this meeting on Saturday, we’ll have some general agreement on what a bill would look like,” Wahls said.

The Iowa Senate unanimously approved a proposal that would require manufactured housing park owners to give residents a 180-day notice of rent increases. Current law requires only a two-month notice.

The measure had support in the Iowa House, but died in the last hours of the session as the chamber focused on completing other work.

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“I don’t know if there was necessarily disagreement on substance,” Wahls said. “It was a timing issue, I think, more than anything.”

He’s among about a half dozen legislators who have been meeting in an effort to prepare bipartisan companion bills that can be introduced in the Republican-controlled House and Senate chambers when the 2020 session opens Jan. 13 in Des Moines.

When they heard that Havenpark Capital, a Utah real estate investment firm, had increased rents 58 percent at Golf View Mobile Home Park in North Liberty and 69 percent at another park in Waukee, many lawmakers were surprised such large increases were legal, Wahls said.

“Compared to residents of other states, Iowans living in manufactured homes on rented plots of land lack the basic protections that traditional renters have,” Wahls said. “Iowa law should protect those who have worked hard for their piece of the American dream from predatory out-of-state landlords taking advantage of Iowa’s unequal protection for manufactured housing residents.”

Havenpark has said it plans “well over $2 million” in improvements at the parks, including infrastructure improvements, dog parks and playgrounds.

A representative of the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association, speaking on background, said they will monitor the public hearing because they understand the Legislature is taking an interest because some residents are upset. In addition, the interest in manufactured housing by equity investment firms is a relatively new development in Iowa.

People wishing to speak at the public hearing are encouraged to register at (515) 418-8709 or rusty.martin@legis.iowa.gov.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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