In the last few weeks, I learned a Utah-based investment firm, Havenpark Capital, purchased mobile home parks in the Iowa City and Des Moines metro areas.
After the sale was complete, this out of state firm gave residents notice of a 60-70% increase in their lot rents starting June 1.
I’ve heard from many residents of Golfview Mobile Home Court in North Liberty about this massive increase being imposed by Havenpark.
It will be devastating to them and for thousands of Iowans. It will cause people to have to choose between rent or eating or taking their medication. It may even cause some people to become homeless.
As I’ve started researching this issue to try and find a solution to help these Iowans, I’ve learned a lot about housing and this new trend, which is happening nationwide.
Mobile homes represent the largest group of non-subsidized affordable housing in the United States.
Roughly 22 million people with median incomes of less than $30,000 a year live in a mobile home, many of them homeowners.
These are people on fixed incomes, low-income working poor, disabled veterans and the elderly trying to get by.
Nominal increases in their lot rent can cause a major disruption in their lives.
I’ve also learned this problem is not unique to Iowa.
The predatory practice of large private investment firms purchasing mobile home parks from small mom-and-pop-type owners around the country has been on the rise since the 2008 financial crisis.
In fact, there are national organizations out there that encourage this practice and will teach you how to make a profit off of America’s most vulnerable homeowners.
The very first lines of their website read:
“Affordable Housing is the hottest arena in commercial real estate right now. With over 20% of Americans trying to live on $20,000 per year or less, the demand for mobile homes has never been higher – and the big winners are the owners of the mobile home parks in which those customers reside.“
I found another example of a conference, called “Learn the Insider Secrets, Tricks and Shortcuts in a 3-Day Immersion Event.”
They give advice like “immediately raise rents to increase your bottom line” and lay out the strategy like this:
“It costs $3,000 to move a mobile home from one park to another. As a result, tenants cannot leave when you raise their rents. Besides the ability to raise rents – even in a recession – you also have the ability to cut costs in a mobile home park, such as sub-metering water and sewer usage. There are probably 10 major ways to boost the income on every park, and every dollar saved or revenue created results in an even higher yield.”
As a mother of three, I have spent the last 19 years saying things like: Be nice; treat others the way you would want to be treated; help people who need it; and more times than I care to admit, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
What Havenpark Capital is doing to thousands of Iowans is not nice.
It is not how they would want to be treated. It doesn’t help others.
Raising rents by 50, 60, almost 70% in some cases, on some of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens might be legal, but it most certainly shouldn’t be done.
I will work with local leaders and the state legislature to try to stop this kind of greedy attack on Iowans from happening again.
For now, I say to Havenpark Capital: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Be nice, it’s actually a thing here in Iowa.