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Housing advocates work for change in laws.

Byline: Scott Maben The Register-Guard

State and local laws fall far short of protecting mobile home park residents from redevelopment or providing them financial assistance when they are made to move, park tenants and their advocates say.

They're working to change that, both on the local and state levels.

Park residents recently asked Eugene city officials for more protection from the closure or conversion of parks. They say the city's ordinance, adopted 17 years ago, is weak because it applies only to parks built in a flood plain or on land zoned for something other than residential use.

Further, Eugene's law requires park owners to help pay the cost to move manufactured homes only if the owners of those homes are elderly or disabled or if they qualify as low-income. And the cap on compensation is $3,500 - far below what it costs to move a double-wide manufactured home these days.

If someone owns a home that cannot be moved, there is no relocation benefit under the ordinance.

It's time to review whether the law is adequate, Mayor Kitty Piercy said. The loss of manufactured or mobile home parks to redevelopment could cut deeply into Eugene's inventory of low-cost housing, she said.

The City Council already is reviewing the community's approach to homelessness, including how to expand the amount of low-cost housing available. Redevelopment of mobile home parks may work against such efforts, the mayor said.

"Maybe we need to increase the benefits to help them make a move," Piercy said.

The intergovernmental Housing Policy Board, which reviews low-income housing projects in Eugene, Springfield and Lane County, also is looking into the issue and may propose new rules this year.

"It's possible we may recommend to the city that it amend its existing ordinance to add further protections," board Chairman John Van Landingham said.

Eugene City Councilor Jennifer Solomon, who once lived in a west Eugene mobile home park with her husband, said the Eugene ordinance is ripe for review. "It really is inadequate in terms of who it helps," said Solomon, also a member of the Housing Policy Board.

Officials locally and throughout the state are keeping a close eye on a far-reaching manufactured home park ordinance adopted by the Wilsonville City Council in 2005. That law, which park owners are challenging in court, requires park owners to pay the full cost to move all homes that can be moved from their park and to buy those that cannot be moved. That could cost a large park hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Wilsonville adopted the law in response to one park owner's plans to close his park and convert it to higher-end housing. The owner has sued the city as well as challenged the law in tax court and with the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

Despite the controversy, the Wilsonville ordinance has appeal among other cities. West Linn is considering adopting a similar ordinance. A half-dozen other communities requested copies of the law shortly after the City Council approved it.

It's exactly the kind of law Eugene should adopt, said Peter Ferris, who used to live in a west Eugene mobile home park and now lives in a manufactured home park in Waldport.

"The owners are taking value from the people who own a mobile home," Ferris said. "What you do is say OK, if you are going to make a killing, we require you to pay for their moving costs. And it can cost $7,000 to $15,000 to move a mobile home, depending on its size."

The Wilsonville ordinance is opposed by Manufactured Housing Communities of Oregon, a group of park owners.

Park residents are renters and they know when they move into a park that they may have to move out some day, said Chuck Carpenter, the group's executive director.

"They are told that up front. This is sort of going back and rewriting that contract," Carpenter said.

The ordinance may have unintended consequences, he said. For one, it could compel park owners around the state to sell or redevelop their land before their communities adopt similarly stringent rules, Carpenter said. That in turn could amplify uncertainty about living in manufactured home parks, making it much more difficult for the owners of those homes to sell or move them, he said.

State law says if a park owner gives tenants less than 365 days to vacate a park, the owner must pay each tenant $3,500 for moving costs.

Legislators last year amended the law to provide more help to people displaced by mobile home park closures. The changes, which took effect Jan. 1, give tenants who meet federal poverty guidelines up to $10,000 in refundable state income tax credits, to be applied against moving costs. Those with higher incomes - between $18,000 and $60,000 - qualify for a nonrefundable state tax credit.

The revised law also prohibits cities and counties from restricting the number of older mobile homes that may be placed in newer parks. The goal is to give tenants who are forced to relocate as many places to move as possible. But park owners still may prohibit older homes from their parks.

The new state law also gives park owners a break on their capital gains tax if they sell the park to a group of park residents, a nonprofit group or a housing authority.

Finally, the law now requires park owners to register with the state, providing the Housing and Community Services Department with the number of park spaces and vacancies in each park. The agency will track park vacancies to help direct displaced residents to new locations.

To provide even more assistance for displaced residents, a coalition of park owners and manufactured home residents already is working on a proposed bill for the 2007 legislative session. The coalition will look at laws in other states that go farther than Oregon's.
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Title Annotation:Real Estate & Housing; Mobile home residents talk to officials and seek more help in the event of park closure or conversion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 8, 2006
Previous Article:Newspaper reorganizes news sections.
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