Iowa’s two congresswomen are responding to residents in mobile home communities in Iowa and other states who are facing steep rent hikes.
Congressman Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, says a Utah company bought mobile home parks in Waukee and North Liberty and dramatically raised rates.
“We’ve recently seen private equity firms come in across the country, start buying up these communities and then jacking up the rents as high as 70 percent,” Axne says.
Residents of manufactured or “mobile” homes typically can buy the home, but cannot buy the land on which it sits if it’s part of a “park” or community, so they pay rent to the property owner. The bill Axne’s backing would establish new federal grants for residents of mobile home parks to try to buy the land themselves.
“Non-profits could do that as well. The state could help with that,” Axne says. “And it also ensures with this grant process that Housing and Urban Development would make sure that grant recipients are subject to rent restrictions, you know, that there’s requirements of things that have to be managed, so there’s HUD oversight to make sure that things are done right for people.”
Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat from Dubuque, yesterday sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, asking its chairman to investigate what Finkenauer called the “predatory” practices of the new owners of the Table Mound Mobile Home Park. Some residents of the Dubuque park say their rent has gone up more than 60 percent in the past two years.
Congresswoman Axne has met with residents of Midwest Country Estates in Waukee who say the park’s new owners are raising their rent by 69 percent.
“We’ve got a lot of people who live in these communities on fixed incomes,” Axne says. “They in no way, shape or form can afford somebody coming in and saying: ‘You’re going to start paying us 70% more…You’re living on Social Security. We know you have no money, but we really don’t care.'”
Havenpark, the new owner of the Waukee mobile home park, spent $17.5 million buying the property, which has about 300 lots for mobile homes. The company has said the rent increases make monthly rent comparable to rates in other Des Moines area mobile home communities.
(By Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)