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Replacing mobile home parks with RV resorts has a human cost

The rush to build new campgrounds is fast accelerating a trend that has long existed in the outdoor industry—the conversion of traditional trailer or mobile home parks into high-end RV resorts.

Converting mobile home parks to RV resorts is driven by the flood of new RV owners coupled with the rising tide of Baby Boomer RV retirees all searching for a great place to park.

While RV owners obviously applaud the addition of any new RV resorts, it is important to understand the human cost that sometimes comes when converting mobile home parks for RV use.

The process can be traumatic

The process of evicting long-established trailer park residents to make way for a new transient RV resort can be traumatic. Several states, including Florida and Arizona, have enacted laws over the years to help protect trailer park residents.

The laws usually carefully spell out what developers can and can’t do when taking over a trailer park. The laws don’t prevent evictions, but they usually force the developer to provide funding and other support to ease the transition.

Yet the explosion of interest in RV park development has led to a surge of traditional trailer park takeovers.

For example, the longtime residents of the Mesa Gardens RV Park in downtown Mesa, Arizona, recently came home to find eviction notices taped to their mobile home doors. They had 90 days to get out.

Most had lived in their slowly degrading homes for decades. Many were retired or on fixed incomes, and few had other places to go.

The new owner of the park, Good Living Ventures out of Denver, Colorado, has been quietly acquiring mobile home parks across Arizona. The owner’s mode of operation seems to be to buy a distressed property, raise rents to drive out some residents, then evict the remaining longtime residents and rebuilt the parks into high-end RV resorts catering to transient snowbirds.

The current Mesa Gardens RV Park website is obviously geared toward RV owners, with plenty of transient RV sites and short-term rental park models.

The current residents of the Mesa Gardens RV Park had been paying a bit less than $500 a month in site rental. In recent months, Good Living Ventures increased the rent to about $800.

The residents say there is little doubt the new owners plan to convert the park to a transient snowbird RV resort with significantly higher nightly, weekly, monthly, and seasonal rates. The eviction notice received by residents stated the park would undergo a “change of use” and only be accepting RVs in the future.

More revenue = more value

Current government policy sometimes encourages new owners to jack up rents or drive out current residents in exchange for the more lucrative transient RV guest. When the park shows a significant revenue increase by converting, it makes the park more valuable. The park owners can then borrow more money against that increased value to get additional cash. They then use that cash to purchase more mobile home parks. The big firms do this time and again using a flood of borrowed money. The loans are often backed by the U.S. government.

It all seems to work against the government’s stated goal of providing more affordable full-time housing.

Good Living Ventures might have to back up their bus a bit on their plans, since the Arizona Mobile Home Act states residents must be given 180 days’ notice of eviction and notify the state. The Act also provides residents with some funding from the state’s Mobile Home Relocation Fund.

And, as is the case in most mobile-home-park-to-RV-park conversions, the mobile homes owned by the residents are no longer in any condition to be moved. Even if structurally possible, the cost of moving a manufactured home can be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. Usually, park owners make mobile home owners an offer to purchase their home. If the offer is accepted, the mobile home is demolished.

Mobile home park to RV resort is an easy transition

Nationwide, the trend to convert mobile home parks to RV resorts is an attractive option for RV resort developers. The proper zoning rules are usually in effect, and utilities such as sewer, water, and electrical connections are already in place.

RV resort developers aren’t the only ones snapping up manufactured home parks. A large mobile home park in Wake Forest, North Carolina, was recently purchased by Middleburg Communities, a property investment firm that has built more than 20,000 apartments worth more than $2.5 billion. Also, an outfit called Speedway Properties in Indianapolis, Indiana, passed out eviction notices to about 20 families living in a manufactured home park right next to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They haven’t yet announced their plans for the property, but they surely won’t include a long-term landing spot for mobile homes.

Bottom line, the urgent need to build new RV resorts in the most cost-effective manner can come at a high human cost when low-income residents are forced to leave their homes to make room.

##RVT1036b

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Phil
3 months ago

We considered relocating to AZ, sell the stick and brick, and move into a small mobile home. Our search led us to beautiful resorts with more costly lot rentals. Those were very seductive to this Country Boy. There were other less expensive parks with less amenities but the lot rent was very affordable. There were some that I just could not move into and had low rents. We are keeping the house and will be snowbirds especially in light of the incredible appreciation our humble domicile is going through. These communities, 55+, house a select group of the population who are more vulnerable to change. Old age is difficult enough not to have to get into the mainstream looking for housing. My suggestion is to encourage lawmakers commission a study of this, determine the impact on seniors and develop some sort of safety net. That said I also support developers who wish to reinvent a park in decline into a delightful paradise that brings more revenue.

John Krussow
4 months ago

We lived in a mobile home park that is actually is a incorporated town (Landfall, MN) that would allow RVs for long term stay in lots that no longer had a mobile home on it. Since many of the mobile home lots are too small for modern mobile homes they place RVs on them.

Since it’s legal to move a 25 year old mobile home in Minnesota once most are placed on a property they are there to stay. Landfall has come up with a good solution to a problem state government created. http://cityoflandfall.com

Montgomery D Bonner
4 months ago

Ok, first, I would not want that delipidated POS near my RV park. Yes, I realize someone may only be able to afford that, not my problem. That they made poor life choices is not my problem, it’s their problem. They may have injury, be sick, got it! So, tearing down that old rundown and eyesore parks in my opinion is a good thing. Sorry, just don’t see the problem. We don’t like old junk yards either, and we should demand those be cleaned up, and all the old cars recycled as quickly as possible, reducing the cost of steel if all that hits the market at once.

Yep, get the payment issue, GF hate having to use PC to do any financial things, constantly bitching at me about it. Such is life, moves along, not stagnant, and it never has. Railroads displaced the Horse and buggy/stagecoach travel option, airplanes eclipsed the railroad travel option, as well as cars. Get used to it. I do want my own planet though. You are not allowed.

Gordy B
4 months ago

May God be with you if you ever have to come down off that high horse!

Jay Ward
3 months ago
Reply to  Gordy B

Amen!

Al St.Clair
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay Ward

Why would you want God to be with him? He seemingly wishes God would strike every poor & disabled person dead. Clearly his genetic material is not fully developed. We can only wish that he is in the epicenter of a large natural disaster. He will be screaming to high heaven for FEMA to come rescue him. I watched many a MEGA supporter asking where is FEMA while standing in the smokin ashes of their homes. The day before they saying that Ronald Ragan was right. Funny thing was most of them were 30 to 50 and had some time to fix things up and wait 10 years for things to grow in. At 70+ there is a good chance I won’t see the grass turn green next spring. Same thing with anti-vacers. They won’t take the Doctors word that the shot will keep damages to minimum. But they want him to treat them for the disease. If they think he did know how to prevent it, what makes them think he can cure it? The bottom line is you can not cure stupid.

Heidi Bodette
4 months ago

Another trend we are seeing when large organizations take over older park model/RV parks is the introduction of technology for payments. They no longer accept cash or checks and want the residents to pay online. This happened to our parents at their seasonal park in Yuma AZ. Most older people just want things to be as they have been for 20 years and when things change they don’t like it. In our parents case, they just sold their park model and won’t be returning. This is exactly what the new owners of the RV park want to happen.

Jim Prideaux
4 months ago

Low or no income housing faces the same problem whether in mobile home parks or the low rent district of cities. The poor live there because it is the less desirable land and therefore the cheapest. And this is always in flux. Once the land becomes more desirable it is no longer cheap and the poor then must find the new cheapest area.

Ron
4 months ago

Corporate greed from the same companies which received the largest tax break ever in 2017. How do you like it now?

Dan
4 months ago

Once again, it’s easy to take something away from those with the least ability to resist. Then use a bunch of double talk to call it progress. This just a contemporary form of red-lining real estate. The golden rule. I got the gold, I rule.

Maurizio Taglianini
4 months ago

“The loans are often backed by the U.S. government.” Are these investments joint ventures between private investors and the U.S. government?

Bill T
4 months ago

I don’t believe anyone wants to see people, especially if they are struggling, be tossed onto the street, but the tenant is renting after all. If the owner sells the property or chooses to repurpose the land, they are under no obligation to “re-rent” space to current tenants. It is unfortunate for the current renters that they have become complacent in their rental situations and assume change won’t happen. Most dilapidated mobile homes have not seen any maintenance, since they were dropped at the spot and I’m surprised if they are even still safe to live in. Likewise, perhaps the current trailer park owners should have had caveats in their rental agreements that the mobile homes remain in “mobile” condition to facilitate the ease of relocation. The owners of these run down mobiles are lucky to get any cash at all since it is obvious that they have not planned for such a necessary move. No one is evicting people from their mobile homes they have just been ordered to relocate them.

Gordy B
4 months ago
Reply to  Bill T

In the case of people who are on a low budget FIXED income it is exactly the same! Most people who are in that fix did not set out to be that way. Circumstances in life put them there. I love the way people are lumping those who may have had a less fortunate outcome for their income, or a disability beyond their control put in the same category with those who could do something about it but won’t. Try walking in their shoes for a day…… I’m sure you would come out with a better understanding of the world and a better tolerance for those in life who were not as fortunate as you. Have a nice day! Happy Trails!

Bill T
4 months ago
Reply to  Gordy B

It’s funny how the observations of some can automatically trigger others to firewall their responses to the complete other end of the spectrum. You are making the assumption that I am “more fortunate than others”. You have no idea about any economic situations I, or others like me, have endured that may have included relocation for just such a purpose. The pity train can be long for some while others choose to better themselves to improve their “fixed” situations in the ever shifting “circumstances in life” as you put it. Not everyone who participates in this open forum is assumed to be “well to do”. Have a nice day and happy trails to you too.

Al St.Clair
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill T

So what is your solution for the disabled and the infirm aged when natural disasters happen? How many bails can I lift or barges can I tote at 70+ years old? So you had favorable circumstance to help you recover. Some people do not. I guess how dare they not be a success. I’ll bet you were not 70 years old when you started the process of recovery ether. If you had you’d be singing a different tune.

Gray
4 months ago

Nowhere in business plans intended to increase property values, profit margins, investment returns, public tax assessment valuations, and jurisdictional economic gains, is “human cost” a factor. Nowhere is there an effective public effort to relieve the “human cost” of economic developments that directly increase the despised and feared homeless hordes. If this seems upsetting, call your local elected officials and ask what plans or motions are in the works to address the “human cost.” Ask what policy or budget provisions are being made? They will utter many platitudes and sympathetic excuses, but they know for a certainty that as a matter of financial and economic policy, it is “not our problem, not our business, not our human cost.” Until one day, one by one, it is us.

Capt. Jim
4 months ago
Reply to  Gray

This…exactly.