“It’s Not Right” State Senator Speaks Out After Mobile Homeowners See Rent Skyrocket

DES MOINES, Iowa --Residents at mobile home parks across the state say their lot rent is about to go up by hundreds of dollars, and in some cases, they've been given until July 1 to come up with the money.

Born without hands or feet, sportswriter Don Lund has lived at the Golf View mobile home park in North Liberty since the late 90s. He can’t work a 40-hour week, and disability supplements his income. After Havenpark Capital bought his park he says he was given a notice that his rent was going up 63 percent.

“So, if you add all that up and then you took away my bills with this new [rent] from $285, which I'm paying, to $450, it gives me about five or 10 bucks to live on. So, maybe a Happy Meal once a week, you know, nothing real extravagant…I just want them to know that we're more than just a trailer and there’s some people who have got some roots invested here, and I'm one of them” said Lund.

Havenpark Capital is a Utah-based investment company which is buying out trailer parks across the country. Their website boasts a portfolio of more than 20 properties, and they’re buying more in Iowa.

Matt Chapman lives at the Midwest Country Estates in Waukee. He says residents there are facing similar rent increases after Havenpark purchased that property.

“If they wanted to do this it could have been done gradually, it could have been done in a way to give them the dignity to move to another home instead of pretty basically saying put up the money or get out” said Chapman.

A representative from Midwest Country Estates says on July 1 all 298 properties will see lot rents go up. Single homes will increase to $500 and doublewides will go to $525 per month. For Chapman, that’s an increase of a few hundred dollars.

The Polk County Housing Trust says mobile homes play a vital role in affordable housing in a state where the supply of affordable homes is low.

“More and more people are being pushed into a smaller and smaller market of affordable housing and we know is that then creates rental increases across the board” said Executive Director Eric Burmeister.

Iowa State Senator Zach Wahls (D) Coralville, says he's an ally with mobile home owners. Under Iowa code mobile home landlords are required to give 60 days’ notice of rent increases and can evict tenants without “good cause”. Whals wants to change that, extend the notice of rent increase to 180 days, and give the attorney general oversight over landlords. He says unfortunately, it might be too late in this session to help people like Lund or Chapman.

“This is an incredibly traumatic experience that people are now staring down the barrel of. We just heard from several people whose lives would literally be uprooted and transformed for the worse if this actually proceeds and so I'm very concerned about it, and it's not right fundamentally, it’s not right” said Whals.

The rent increase leaves residents with few options. Moving a trailer to a more affordable park can cost thousands of dollars, and selling their home is tough as well. Senator Whals says realtors estimate for every $100 increase in space rent, a mobile home loses $10,000 in value. We reached out to Havenpark, they did not immediately return an email and a phone number was not listed. They now have purchased parks in Waukee, North Liberty, West Branch, Iowa City, and Indianola.

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