To the editor:

You recently ran an article discussing rent control for a mobile home park located in Orange County (July 26, 2019). It is not my intention to defend the new owner of the mobile home park listed in the article; I don’t know anything about him or his park other than what I read in the article. The question is what can be done? A possible course of action could be for someone to gather a few investors to provide seed money to begin the process of building a mobile home park of their own.

This raises an important question. If mobile home parks are so profitable, why aren’t any new parks being built? Some of the blame needs to be laid at the feet of the very government officials who are being asked to solve the problem. Last time I checked there was about $70,000 in fees to put a new home on a lot. School tax fee, police and fire fee, water meter fee, sewer connection fee, electric meter fee, traffic and urban and on. Then you have all of the development costs. (Tract housing developers are now rolling some of these costs into the homebuyer’s property tax, which artificially lowers the cost of the home, but usually more than doubles the property taxes.) Perhaps, a mobile home park builder could develop a lot for $170,000 with land cost, development cost and fees. That same money could be put in the stock market and generate a 7% return on investment. To get a 7$ return on the $170,000 investment, a charge of $1,000 a month in rent would be required, and this does not account for any overhead, operating, or management expenses. Then there is always the threat of governmental imposed rent control.

Seniors can buy a home on land they own and be somewhat insulated from rising costs. However, in California, their property taxes will go up at the rate of 2% per year, rain or shine. Utility costs continue to rise as well. Costs of maintaining a home also rise. I have seen the cost of a new roof more than double in a relatively short time. A new HVAC system has certainly outpaced the rate of inflation. A park owner has private streets to maintain, common facilities like pools, clubhouses, and landscaping to maintain and improve along the way. The park owner is less insulated from rising housing costs. The city of Yucaipa has rent control. The last time rents were surveyed locally the cities with rent control weren’t significantly lower than the cities without rent control. Attorneys profit from rent control. Park owners hire attorneys to protect their interests and cities with rent control have attorney expense to draft rent control ordinances with ongoing legal expense to and and defend such ordinances. Who pays for the cities’ costs of rent control? The city imposes a fee on all mobile home park residents to offset the cost of administering rent control.

It becomes a very complicated and expensive undertaking to take away free market forces and try to artificially control rent through governmental agencies and the inevitable courtroom battles and yet we continue in our search of the ever elusive utopia.

Art Nordquist

Operator, Mountain Air Mobile Home Estates


(1) comment

L A 'Tony' Kovach

Mr. Nordquist makes some useful points, although there are refinements warranted.

1) In Minnesota, Democratic and Republican lawmakers who studied the issue of manufactured homes arrived at some hard numbers that made it clear that it is significantly less costly do develop with manufactured housing.

2) Rent control tends to create complexities and tensions that favor larger operators and consolidators of manufactured home communities over ‘mom and pop’ owned properties. To generalize, the mom and pops are NOT normally those who aggressively hike site fees (a.k.a. ‘lot rent). Rather, it tends to be the consolidators who do so after they acquire a community from someone else.

3) Where Nordquist is spot on is that the free market is being stifled by not permitting the development of new manufactured home sites, infill, developments and new land lease communities. People largely misunderstand this form of housing, and out of ignorance reject what they don’t know. Those Democratic and GOP lawmakers in MN, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and others on both sides of the political aisle have praised the durability, value, and safety features of HUD Code manufactured homes. There are decades or research by third parties that debunk one false notion after another. Some examples follow.

4) The terminology is important, because since June 15, 1976 there have been no mobile homes built: manufactured homes are made to federal construction and safety standards called the HUD Code for manufactured housing. Mobile homes statistically tend to burn more often and with more damage. By contrast, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) did research, and they determined that manufactured homes are far safer and may be just a bit safer than conventional ‘site built’ housing against a fire. As the National Association of Realtors research on manufactured homes in 2018 demonstrated, manufactured homes are resilient in windstorms, older mobile homes, not so much. Thus, calling a manufactured home a mobile home is always an error.

5) Many people fear manufactured homes due to outdated notions, which HUD Secretary Carson, and others are trying to dispel. Some prejudices die hard.

6) We publish Manufactured Home Living News, which has compiled years of third-party research on issues like Mr. Nordquist has raised, along with the stories of actual owners of manufactured homes. We spotlight professionals that do bad things, and those who do good as well. The last point to make is that the solution is educational and creating more affordable housing options. There are federal laws on the books, including ‘enhanced preemption’ for manufactured homes that are largely misunderstood and therefore are going underenforced. Much of the affordable housing crisis could be solved by the free market combined with applying existing federal laws.

7) Research by HUD and others demonstrates that affordable homes, including manufactured homes, appreciate side by side with conventional housing. Facts and law enforcement of federal enhanced preemption are the solution. The enemy is when predatory firms rig the system with rent control that favors them and harms the independents that aren’t guilty of the same practices that cause people to want rent control in the first place.

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