Mobile Home Parks For Sale: Is it Fair For Everyone?

I found the following article at canada.com a couple of days ago and thought it brought up an interesting concern that I think is likely to become a hot topic in the next little while. As populations increase, so does the value of land. At the same time a piece of land that may have once been on a road that was out of the way in a semi countryside setting may now be starting to be enveloped by the ever expanding suburban sprawl. One of the side effects of all of this is that the owners of mobile home park lands may realize that they can make more money by further developing the park into condos or what have you than continuing to rent out the pads at $300 per month. This is what we refer to as “latent value” in the real estate business.

But on the other side of the coin, as the below article describes fairly well, are the people who at one point chose to make these mobiles homes their residences. Despite what shows like “The Trailer Park Boys” depict, a lot of mobile home parks (perhaps I could even say, the majority of them) are full of seniors who have chosen them as manageable, comfortable place to spend their twilight years. Moving again is a big deal for them, particularly if they’ve reached the age where they can’t do it for themselves. And yes, there are also many who live there for financial reasons too. (Though in my opinion, you could do smarter things with your money than live in one of these if you’re having financial woes, but that’s another post.)

Now, from what I understand it is quite common if not usual for the owners of the land to reach some sort of financial agreement with the residents in these situations. A fistful of money and perhaps payment for the transport of the home. However, this may not satisfy the many home owners who have mobile that have been built up with extensions that have become integral to the mobile itself. By this I mean the extra bedrooms, workshops and etc. that are often added. It becomes impossible to move the mobile without destroying these.

There are many reasons for controversy here as  the individuals on each side of the equation have interests that conflict.

The article describes the proposition of turning these parks into a kind of strata. I don’t think the reporter knows about “bare land strata” because that’s exactly what he describes, and they do already exist in B.C. The question he doesn’t explore is “How does the government plan to implement a transition strategy for these situations that is fair for both sides?” The more I think about what the answer might be, the more it seems that it will be long and complex. I imagine this is why the government has been vague on it so far. It’s a tough answer.

Ryan Coffey,

River Run proposal won’t defuse low-cost housing powder keg

Questions remain unanswered, raising doubts about the soundness of the foundation of the Liberal government’s proposal to address a growing housing problem on Vancouver Island.

The problem is all those people who are displaced when a mobile home park owner decides it’s more economically viable to build condos or townhouses than to take $300 a month rent from owners of manufactured homes.

Many of these mobile home park tenants are seniors on limited incomes. Unlike apartment dwellers, they can’t just pack up their things and move to another apartment. They have to move their entire home, some so old many parks don’t want them. They may have also added an extension, making it unsafe to move.

The provincial government, knowing the problem will get worse before it gets better, recently announced a pilot project for British Columbia to create strata title lots mobile home owners could own outright, freeing them from the uncertainty of renting a trailer pad.

But so far the proposal has come with few details, and with the announcement so close to the May provincial election, the more skeptical reader might wonder whether it was really meant to address the problem or to just create the illusion something is being done.

When the province announced its River Run proposal, Nanaimo-Parksville MLA Ron Cantelon, a former realtor, cited it as proof the government is looking to provide “affordable, sustainable housing” for mobile home residents.

The announcement came just days after news came out that Victoria developer Oak Bay Marine Group planned to redevelop Ivy Green, a 39-unit mobile home park in Ladysmith, giving residents 12 months to find a new place for their aging mobile homes.

The B.C. Ministry of Housing proposes to buy the River Run Homes property, an eight-acre chunk of land on Fielding Road. The idea is to subdivide it into individual strata title lots, which could be sold to evicted manufactured home owners.

The problem isn’t new. In January 2007, Oak Bay Marine Group gave Metchosin trailer park residents 12 months notice, spawning B.C.’s first legal challenge of the Manufactured Park Tenancy Act. In October, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Keith Bracken ruled Oak Bay Marine Group acted within the law when it forced manufactured home owners to move or abandon their homes.

This problem will get worse. As mobile home park owners get older, many will sell off their properties or leave them to children who have no interest in becoming landlords. Some are on oceanfront land that is like gold for developers.

The question is: Where does this leave mobile home park dwellers in their twilight years? The province can’t even say what a River Run lot will cost, let alone whether affordable mortgages would be made available to buyers.

Modern manufactured homes have peaked roofs and vinyl siding, and most parks don’t welcome the older, outdated models. Could owners move their older mobile homes onto the River Run property? No answer.

Then there are the units that have been modified with additions, which too often can’t be moved without being damaged. What can the government do for them?

The Ministry of Housing can only say a study is underway. So a pilot housing project is announced for Nanaimo, creating the impression something is being done to ease a growing housing problem.

Mobile home dwellers should take such announcements with a grain of salt, especially on the eve of an election. This is an issue that will affect a lot of Nanaimo residents, and soon.

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