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.