Mobile home residents need protection
Legislation -- Oregon House bill would force landlords to pay a share relocation costs
It's no secret Washington County has a serious lack of affordable housing but it'll be much worse if we don't do something about the current crisis confronting mobile home parks.
In the last two years 31 parks shut down around Oregon, a dozen in Washington County alone. The legislature has an opportunity to help residents who've had their lives turned upside down by a park closure.
Time is of the essence. In February the residents of Thunderbird Mobile Club in Wilsonville got their closure notice. Another 270 spaces lost. And 200 spaces were just closed in three parks next to Nike in Beaverton.
Cornelius and Forest Grove have 11 parks. Both communities face the same growing pains due to rising land values. We hope these parks stay open for a long time but if not, the residents deserve some relief.
The 2005 Legislature created a new tax credit to provide up to $10,000 for low income families forced out of their mobile home parks. This year we want to expand that program and add more elements.
We have been working with a coalition of mobile home tenants, park owners, and housing advocates on a package of legislation to assist these displaced park residents. The package calls for shared responsibility.
House Bill 2735 puts part of the responsibility on the landlord to pay a certain amount for tenant relocation: $5,000 for a single-wide home, $7,000 for a double-wide and $9,000 for a triple-wide. The state provides an enhanced $10,000 tax credit which is no longer restricted to low income residents or those who move their homes. Local governments will freeze the property value of the park and can no longer adopt local ordinances regarding park closures. Mobile home owners still bear much of the costs.
We know this proposal only addresses short-term symptoms to a long-term ailment. The cure involves empowering mobile-home owners so they can purchase these parks. There are efforts underway to do just that. Park purchases take a lot of time and money. Only two such deals have occurred in the past decade in Oregon.
The cure also involves our land- use system, ensuring we map out a long-range strategy for affordable housing. This is another critical aspect for a big-picture solution.
For the immediate future, we must help the people impacted by park closures. A majority are seniors with low incomes. Many are disabled. For some, the next move is a nursing home. The stories are usually heartbreaking. They put their life savings into this house and thought they would live there for years to come. Their homes are often too old to be moved and if even they could the nearest vacancy is 100 miles away. These residents don't just occupy a space for rent. They made significant investments in landscaping, carports, and other features.
The park owners also deserve some respect. Decades ago when cities needed land for affordable housing, mobile home parks were a handy option. The people who built those parks are now pressured to sell with skyrocketing land values inside those cities. For example, Thunderbird was there before Wilsonville was a city. It might be tempting to force the landlords to cash out the tenants when a park closes, but there are issues involving property rights and fairness at work here as well.
A handful of cities have adopted their own laws regarding park closures. Others like Cornelius may follow suit. However, these local ordinances face expensive court challenges. We think a statewide solution is preferable.
Your help is needed to make this new legislative package a success. House Bill 2735 is coming up for a hearing Monday, April 2, in the House Consumer Protection Committee. This legislation has the best chance of any proposal currently floating around the capitol.
Please talk to your friends and family around the state. Urge them to write or call their legislators. Ask them to support House Bill 2735. If you truly care about maintaining affordable housing in Oregon like we do, then please join us in this effort.
State Rep. Jerry Krummel is a Republican whose district stretches from Wilsonville to Gaston. State Sen. Brad Avakian is a Democrat whose district includes Beaverton.
Contact your legislators
Forest Grove and Cornelius:
State Sen. Bruce Star
State Rep. Chuck Riley
State Sen. Betsy Johnson
State Rep. Deborah Boone
State Sen. Larry George
State Rep. Jerry Krummel