The costs of closure

Sherwood City Council will vote on an ordinance to protect mobile home owners at its Nov. 8 meeting

Sherwood City Council will consider adopting an ordinance to protect manufactured home owners at its Nov. 8 meeting.

After two crowded and occasionally heated meetings in September and October, council voted unanimously to have the city attorney Paul Elsner draft an ordinance that mirrors Oregon City's, which sets closure notification guidelines for park owners and requires home owners to be paid up to $15,000 for being forced out of the park.

Three councilors, Dennis Durrell, Dave Heironimus and Dan King, met with State Rep. Jerry Krummel, R-26, to try to develop an ordinance for Sherwood after September's meeting. Krummel was a sponsor of a law passed by the legislature last year that makes some home owners eligible for a tax credit. The trio failed to reach a consensus, though Durrell did present a plan that would force park owners to establish an escrow account of $5000 for each home owner over a five-year period. That money would then be used to reimburse homeowners if the park closed. If the owner closed the park before the escrow account reached $5000, he would be forced to make up the difference.

Heironimus said he thought that plan would just lead park owners to raise rents.

'It's essentially taxing yourself $83 a month to pay for your eviction in five years,' he said.

Durrell said he hoped there was a way to establish some kind of rent control to avoid that, and predicted that an Oregon City-like ordinance could also have the effect of raising rents. He pointed out that owners could raise rents to cover the financial liability each home would create if they wanted to close the park.

While Paul Elsner, the city's attorney, said rent control was a possibility, Fred Schwoch, president of the Manufactured Home Owners of Oregon, said rent control in Oregon has been banned since World War II, except in designated low-income housing areas.

About two dozen manufactured home owners attended the meeting, and were represented by resident Bob Kelly, who lives in Smith Farm Estates. Kelley said the residents felt the $5000 escrow account concept was 'unacceptable,' and favored an ordinance like Oregon City's. He said compensating home owners forced out of their parks, 'some assurance that they can find some other roof over their head besides [using] welfare.'

Kelley also encouraged council to look into relocation assistance funds and other grants and aid programs that have sprung up in response to the growing problem.

One park, Driftwood on Highway 99W, has already closed in Sherwood, and several other cities have passed ordinances to protect residents. One of those ordinances, the one passed in Wilsonville, is being appealed in Clackamas County, leaving some councilors afraid that an ordinance would leave the city open to some sort of liability.

The state legislature passed a bill last year that gave eligible manufactured homeowners a $10,000 tax credit for moving their home. Home owners said there were several problems. They need to front the money for the move caused problems. In addition, many parks don't accept homes older than 10 years old, and parks throughout the area are closing as owners sell the land to developers. Kelley said that even if the park owners reaches an agreement to compensate the home owner, the payment is often offset because the home owners must use part of it to have the house demolished or removed if he cannot find a new park.

Richard Johnson, who also lives in a manufactured home, pointed out that the parks house different kinds of structures, which means different tax evaluations, but also a change in the idea of mobility. While mobile homes truly have wheels, manufactured homes cannot be wheeled away. They need to be physically lifted onto a flatbed truck and moved, adding complications and expenses.

Council voted unanimously to have Elsner draft the ordinance, and will hold a public hearing on enacting it during its Nov. 8 meeting, which is on a Wednesday due to elections.