Manufactured home owners asked council for more protection when their park closes

Sherwood City Council voted to develop a resolution to provide greater protections for manufactured home owners when their home parks are sold during its September 19 meeting.

Several dozen manufactured homeowners were at the meeting in support of Bill Kelley, who lives in Smith Park Estates, one of five manufactured home parks in Sherwood, who formally requested that council pass an ordinance similar to those passed in West Linn, Oregon City and Wilsonville.

Amidst at-times heated bickering between council members, council passed by a 6-1 vote a resolution that requires staff and members of the board to research other city's legislation, consult with city attorneys and craft a resolution.

'I brought this up in January,' said councilor Dan King, who attended a West Linn meeting on the subject earlier in the month, and pointed out that this was the second time this year manufactured home owners came to a meeting looking for help. 'I don't think anybody would get into this type of housing or get into a park if they felt they were going to be uprooted … we have to look out for everybody in the city.'

The lone dissenting vote on council was Mayor Keith Mays, who said he felt the city might incur an expensive liability if it faced a lawsuit from a manufactured park owner trying to sell the park, such as the lawsuit Wilsonville is facing. That suit is scheduled to go to court in October.

Mays pointed out that Rep. Jerry Krummel, R-26, actually recommended against the city passing immediate legislation. Krummel, who worked on state legislation to provide a tax credit for owner forced to move, testified at the council meeting.

Mays said the city could send a message without passing an ordinance simply by letting park owners know that council would not look kindly an owner who sold property without fairly compensating their tenants; the assumption being that after selling, the park owner would need certain approvals from the city to redevelop their land. Mays favored waiting to take action until after the Wilsonville suit is resolved.

Councilor Dave Heironimus pointed out that the Wilsonville lawsuit has already been delayed, and could drag on for months or years after appeals. He made the original motion to draft an ordinance.

In the middle of the discussion were the manufactured home owners, who fear suffering the same fate as those in Sherwood's own Driftwood park, whose tenants received an eviction notice last December, Willamette Cove in West Linn and at other parks across Oregon, where the housing boom and population growth are leading developers to look for any available land on which to build.

'Until you've been there for one of these [closings] don't be cavalier about it, because it hurts,' said Pat Shwoch, executive director of the Manufactured Homeowners of Oregon, who also testified at the meeting. 'Some of the houses may be old, but so are a lot of the people who live in them, and they've lived in them for years.'

Shwoch and others relayed stories of seniors unable to afford for the cost of moving their home, even after reimbursements. Others find that there's nowhere to move their home. One woman relayed the story of applying for Section 8 housing for her elderly mother, only to find a long waiting list and a housing department that would not return her phone calls.

Krummel told council that there are some contingency plans for landowners. New legislation established a tax credit of up to $10,000 provided by the state to reimburse homeowners to move their homes. If they get less than a year's notice, a park owner also must reimburse the homeowners to the tune of $3200, a figure Shwoch said is rarely enough to move a manufactured home. Krummel said the state is working on legislation to further protect the home owners.

Councilor Dennis Durrell suggested that developers who buy home parks might have a role to play in reimbursing homeowners. While he admitted it might not hold up legally, he suggested council investigate whether the developer purchasing the park could somehow be required to compensate homeowners, since they will ultimately profit from the development of the land.

Councilor Dan King said city officials planned to meet the last week in September to work on an ordinance. King said they would likely look at legislation crafted in West Linn, Oregon City, Wilsonville and other Oregon cities. 'It's basically going to come down to money,' he said, 'how much, and what are the parameters, and how is [reimbursement] structured.'

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