#OccupyTheTrailerParks

Doug Curlee of The Santee (Calif.) Patch brings us the story of what every manufactured-home owner fears: a sudden increase in the rent they pay on the land beneath their homes.

Happily, for now, the City of Santee has a Manufactured Home Fair Practices Commission, and that commission voted to enforce fair practices. But as Curlee notes, this victory for residents is no guarantee of their future security: “Santee Mobile Home Owners Win the Rent-Control Battle — But Not the War.”

The residents of Meadowbrook Santee Mobile Estates heard the Santee Manufactured Home Fair Practices Commission confirm the victory they actually won three weeks ago against the company that owns the park, at a special meeting on Thursday.

Three commissioners voted unanimously to affirm that Equity Lifestyle Properties will not get the rental rate increase the company had asked for—a rate increase that would have jacked up space rentals by about $472 a month for the average space in the park.

Given that the average rate the residents are paying now is around $720 a month, it would have represented a staggering increase, especially to senior citizens on fixed incomes.

When a landlord announces a rent increase from $720 a month to nearly $1,200 a month, he’s not trying to cover his own increasing costs, or even just to gouge his tenants. A rent increase of that size is designed to chase off tenants so that the land can be sold to developers for some potentially more lucrative use. A rent increase of that size is basically an eviction notice.

So even though city commissioners voted to protect these residents for now, they know that the company that owns the land beneath their not-really-mobile mobile homes doesn’t want them there and will continue seeking other ways to force them to leave.

Park residents did not race home to pop the champagne corks.

They say they know full well this was a skirmish—a minor battle—in the ongoing war between the park owners and the City of Santee.

“We know this is going to go to court, that the owners are going to sue the city over the whole rent-control law” says Joanne Lepur, a Meadowbrook resident.

“It’s all part of the park owners’ strategy, and not just Meadowbrook. The city has spent more than $2 million, so far, defending the rent-control ordinance in court, and the parks are trying to keep suing until the city runs out of money,” she said.

It’s good to have consumer protections such as the Santee Manufactured Home Fair Practices Commission in place, and laws protecting residents from unreasonable rent increases are also often helpful and necessary. But these things are really only half measures.

It’s good and just and necessary for residents to be able to seek and find justice from the city or the courts, but that doesn’t change their precarious situation or resolve their underlying (literally under-lying) problem. It’s all but guaranteed that these same residents will have to seek justice from the city or the courts again soon, and there is no guarantee that next time they will get as favorable a result. Measures like a fair practices commission or laws limiting rent hikes and evictions help by limiting the power that landlords are able to bring down upon their tenants, but such measures don’t do enough to address the essential powerlessness of those tenants.

Behind the mask of Equity Lifestyles Properties is the familiar face of Old Man Potter, and he’s still the richest man in town. His deep pockets mean that he can hire expensive lawyers to exploit loopholes for any consumer protection legislation. And he can hire expensive lobbyists to create loopholes rendering such legislation meaningless. Eventually, Potter’s deep pockets will come to hold not just his vast wealth, but also the commissioners and judges the tenants rely on for protection.

Better laws and regulations protecting the tenants of Potterville are thus no substitute for the more fundamental change that needs to occur — turning Potterville back into Bedford Falls.

That’s what’s happening now in Paradise Park, a manufactured home community in Highlands, N.J., that just successfully defended their right to purchase the land beneath their homes.

The homeowners will be meeting within the next two weeks to discuss their plans to purchase the property, [Homeowners association president Loretta] Dibble said.

The group has 45 days to secure a contract of purchase. Dibble acknowledged that the homeowners have work ahead of them to make the purchase. She also said the group needs two-thirds of the residents to agree to move forward to purchase the property.

“All of us are looking forward to buying the park, making it a better neighborhood, a welcoming place for families and individuals, and an example of democratic ownership and operation. We will be our own landlord now,” said Leonard Fiorili, association treasurer.

If the homeowners succeed in purchasing their community, it will be the first resident-owned manufactured housing community in New Jersey, despite long-standing public policy and laws designed to promote these community conversions, Dibble said.

“We will be our own landlord.” That’s how it should be and that’s all that 99 percent of the 99 percent are looking for.

The right wing of American politics — the 1-percenters and the venal little Renfields who do their bidding and tend to their coffins during the day — love to pretend that everyone else is a socialistic socialist advocating socialism. I’m fairly sure that they know this is a crock of nonsense, but they love to say it anyway and to pretend that they believe it’s true.

But there’s nothing “socialist” about owning the land beneath your home and being your own landlord, freed of the threat of exploitation and eviction. Bedford Falls isn’t a hotbed of socialism and George Bailey isn’t a socialist. Bailey is a banker, a capitalist — just not a corrupt crony capitalist like Old Man Potter. We 99-percenters are not driven by envy or by our jealousy of Potter, we’re just tired of getting screwed by the landlord.

As Matt Taibbi put it, our complaint isn’t that Old Man Potter is winning, it’s that he’s cheating.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The right wing of American politics — the 1-percenters and the venal little Renfields who do their bidding and tend to their coffins during the day — love to pretend that everyone else is a socialistic socialist advocating socialism. I’m fairly sure that they know this is a crock of nonsense, but they love to say it anyway and to pretend that they believe it’s true.

    Those on the right tend to make a big deal of property rights, the agency a person has regarding ownership that they have worked for.  As this story shows, this is an admirable thing.  However, it unfortunately cuts both ways, with the obvious rebuttal about the original land owner’s right to do whatever they want with their property which the tenants were renting.  

    Unfortunately for the “little owners”, the “big owners” are the ones who have the assets to throw behind political campaigns, and therefor they have a bigger place in shaping party policy.  Inevitably, the little owners see little benefit, but because they are aligned in principal with the big owners, they still continue to vote for policies that support them.  

    They are made so afraid that their property will be taken away to be made public that it preempts the fear that their property will be taken away by those higher up the private property food chain.

  • Lori

    Equity Lifestyles Properties? Really? That is such a totally wrong name for a company that owns trailer parks that it pretty much constitutes a big old FU every time someone has to write it on a rent check or see it on a business card or get a letter from its lawyers. They might as well have named themselves Potterville Properties or Evil, Inc. Dang.

  • catseye

    The right wing of American politics — the 1-percenters and the venal
    little Renfields who do their bidding and tend to their coffins during
    the day — love to pretend that everyone else is a socialistic socialist
    advocating socialism.

    Credit where it’s due–Renfield, despite being under supernatural compulsion (and in the book at least, mentally ill to start with), knew he was a tool of evil and managed to at least warn the good guys.  If more of the one-percenters’ little ghouls had as much clarity and chutzpah as sniveling Renfield, the world would be a better place. 

    (And I know that the term has passed the character and I quite like and approve of the image; I just can’t restrain myself from leaping to the defense of Dwight Frye’s honor the day after my classic horror marathon. ;P  Also, wait, did I just find a new low water mark for characters who would be more effective against the antichrist than the TF?)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    File under “gives me a tenuous sense of hope”. This is yet another reason that we need to work to elect Democrats. Liberal Democrats, specifically, but frankly, at this point, any kind of Democrat will help stave off the darkness to some degree or another.

    When the people with D next to their name win, then stuff gets gradually better or stays the same, most of the time. When the people with R next to their name win, things get worse, and they get worse at a sickening rate of speed. This is only a temporary victory, but without those evil socialist communist kenyan laws and courts and gubmint, there would have been no victory, only the Free Hand of Da Market.

    That’s why I encourage everybody to get out and vote for Obama and the Democrats. (Especially if you’re pissed at them. If you think they’re bad, just imagine what President Rick Fucking Perry would be like for one single goddamn year.)

    For larger cultural changes, the Occupation looks to continue to give me hope. It’s sure not going away.

  • Rugosa

    Bravo!

  • Helena

    We bought our house 3 years ago and I read quite about real estate on the internet at that time. I recall an article that talked about a mobile home lot renting trade publication which ran an article urging people in that business to raise their lots rents across the board (I think about $400 per lot per month was the goal), because the people renting the lots wouldn’t be able to get loans and the lot owners had them at their mercy if they all worked together. So this may not be an attempt to force the renters out.

  • Lori

    And people wonder why landlords have often been the the focus of peasant revolts. 

  • Anonymous

    “….our complaint isn’t that Old Man Potter is winning, it’s that he’s cheating.”

    In defense of of Old Man Potter, he is not cheating.  The rules of the game are simple, ‘Those with the power (Money) make the rules.’

  • Matri

    “Evil, Inc.” is already two-thirds of the copyrighted name “Doofenschmirtz Evil, Inc.

    At least he‘s being honest about it.

  • Lori

    And Doofenschmirtz has style. Curse you Perry the Platypus! 

  • Zenyatta

    I just love how much you support the Occupiers, we really appreciate it brother. :)

  • Anonymous

    “The right wing of American politics — the 1-percenters and the venal
    little Renfields who do their bidding and tend to their coffins during
    the day — love to pretend that everyone else is a socialistic socialist
    advocating socialism. I’m fairly sure that they know this is a crock of
    nonsense, but they love to say it anyway and to pretend that they
    believe it’s true.”

    I’m not sure this is true.  Actual socialism has been a dead issue for so long in America that hardly anyone has any conception of what it is.  The word “socialism” has been reduced to a mere schoolyard taunt.  The only semantic content it holds is “a position to the left of mine”.  It doesn’t matter if this position was by Ronald Reagan.  (As is frequently noted, the Overton Window has moved so far to the right that someone holding Reagan’s views could not be nominated by the modern Republican Party and would be condemned as “socialist”.)

  • Risser

    So, if I own the trailer park, that is, the land the trailers sit on, and I no longer wish to own it, and I can sell it to a developer for several times what I paid for it (and therefore what it’s assessed at), what should I do?

    Should I sell it to the tenants at cost?

    Or should I sell it to the developers and make profit?

    While I don’t think I would be interested in evicting folks to the streets, I do think giving them fair warning to find another place, say 12 to 18 months, before selling would be a fair deal.  I guess I’m not sure how it’s the right of the tenant to be able to remain a tenant as long as they like.

    By that argument, if I rent a room to someone for a year, I have no right to stop renting to them after the lease is up?

    Again, I’m not for dumping folks on the streets, but I think with fair warning, it would be my right as the owner of the land to do with it as I see fit.

    I think the weird thing about the mobile home industry is that the home are theoretically ‘mobile’, and yet, they aren’t.  So you own the house, but I own the land, with the idea that you can take the house with you, even though you can’t.  This makes it a little different than a traditional apartment-renting situation.

    Anyway, I guess I’m missing something.  What am I overlooking?
    Thanks,
    Peter

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    While I don’t think I would be interested in evicting folks to the
    streets, I do think giving them fair warning to find another place, say
    12 to 18 months, before selling would be a fair deal.  I guess I’m not
    sure how it’s the right of the tenant to be able to remain a tenant as
    long as they like.

    1. In any reasonably advanced society it is considered a mark of social stability to have lived in the same place for several years.

    2. In any reasonably advanced society we need not live any kind of hunter-gatherer nomadic type lifestyle, nor till the soil as agricultural workers six months out of the year.

    3. There is great unspoken store set by the human sense of “place” – of just being somewhere there are a person’s roots. We often speak of refugees being “uprooted” for example.

    4. Unfortunately in our modern society the laws that govern land ownership and land use are particularly weak with respect to a class of housing called manufactured home housing. This is typically because such housing has been unflatteringly called “trailer park” housing and is not usually associated with wealthy, well-connected constituents who, in our thoroughly money-driven modern era, would get politicians to see that it is in their interest to give tenants the right of first refusal on purchases of the land their manufactured home sits on.

    No landlord would give tenants 12 months’ notice out of the goodness of their hearts if they could get the tenants out in three by underhandedness. In the USA, especially, if someone owns a business you should expect that business to try and find a way to cheat you. It’s not a moral failing, it’s just the character of a capitalist economy with insiufficient regulation that someone will find a way to make sure they get more from your wallet than you think is fair.

  • rizzo

    The rich, or at least some of them at one point not all that long ago in our countries’ history, paid lip service to noblesse oblige.  As I was taught in business school about a decade ago, however, “Greed is good”.  One teacher even showed the speech from Wall Street and said that Gordon Gekko was exactly right.  And we wonder why this country is going down the tubes…

  • Hawker40

    Evil, Inc is the name of a webcomic…
    http://www.evil-comic.com/

  • Lori

    Evil, Inc is the name of a webcomic…  

    This is true, and it’s actually pretty funny. I should have remembered that and not besmirched it’s name by associating it with Equity Lifestyles Properties. My sincerest apologies to Brad Guigar & Ed Ryzowski. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What am I overlooking?

    I’m going to go straight for the moral argument here, and someone else can do the legal.

    Why do you think your “right” to make several hundred percent profit on your capital trumps the right of other people to have something close to secure, affordable housing?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    http://imgur.com/gallery/YqUif

    This is beautiful, I love it. The actual image is:

    http://i.imgur.com/YqUif.jpg

  • Pat Greene

    There is a case which might interest you currently before the Supreme Court: Guggenheim, Inc. v. City of Goleta.  The issue is whether a mobile home park owner who purchased the property knowing it was subject to rent control ordinances can challenge the ordinances as unconstitutional. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    We need some wealthy patron to buy up land, then sell it back to the manufactured home owners on it to own the land as a co-op.  Maybe keep a small profit, then go do it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  That person’s existing wealth would end up greater, and they would end up with more people as home owners, which strengthens their economic standing and thus shifts the market as a whole a little more toward stability.  

    Hell, if I was rich, that would be the kind of thing I would do.  

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Speaking of the “Occupy Movement” – I’d like to let you all know that the Fair Trade movement (which might be considered Occypy-Lite by means of one’s dollars) has some issues.

    http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/565.php

    Note that this means you will need to look at the certifying authority for any fair trade items you get to be sure you’re not inadvertently helping the co-opters of the Fair Trade movement.

  • Anonymous

    Note that this means you will need to look at the certifying authority for any fair trade items you get to be sure you’re not inadvertently helping the co-opters of the Fair Trade movement.

    Great. Perfect. *sigh*

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Sorry – I hate being the bearer of bad news. :( Unfortunately it was only a matter of time before dollar bills started wafting into peoples’ noses and a concomitant willingness to compromise certain standards of social justice.

  • Paradise Park

    Interesting discussion. Connect with the homeowners at Paradise Park in Highlands, NJ and follow our progress as we vote to purchase our community! Occupy Paradise on facebook.

    Loretta Dibble, President, Paradise Park Homeowners Association

  • Dibble

    If you know anyone like that please send them our way, We need a friendly lender.

    Lori Dibble- Paradise Park Homeowners Association, Highlands. NJ 


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