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Mobile home park closures debated.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

They belonged to the same committee, but Jerry Harden and Troy Brost each found something different to dislike about their group's ideas on mobile home park closures.

That's because the Eugene men approached the issue from different perspectives: Harden is a tenant of a west Eugene manufactured home park; Brost is the owner of another mobile home park, also in west Eugene.

They participated in a committee that hashed out proposals to help tenants of parks that close. The recommendations will be presented at noon today to the Housing Policy Board, a group appointed by Eugene, Springfield and Lane County officials to deal with housing issues.

Just two mobile home parks have closed in Eugene during the past decade. Yet statewide since 2003, nearly 60 manufactured home parks have closed or are in the process of closing, many of them in the Portland area.

The trend has Eugene-Springfield manufactured home park residents and affordable housing advocates worried that closures could happen locally.

With a shrinking supply of vacant land, Harden and other manufactured park tenants fear that if a large park closed, there would be no place for them to move.

About 1,100 Eugene residents signed a petition last fall urging the City Council to declare a one-year moratorium on mobile home park closures. Many park residents are elderly and low-income, said Harden, a retired wine company salesman who has become an advocate for park residents.

"It's awfully important for the Eugene City Council to understand that this is a very important issue for many Eugene citizens," he said.

A key committee recommendation would involve compensating tenants if they must move because a park owner sells or converts a park to another use.

Estimates put the cost of moving a single-wide mobile home at about $15,000, more for larger homes.

The committee has recommended that park owners either reimburse tenants for their "actual moving costs," or pay residents a flat amount before the park closing. The Housing Policy Board would determine that amount.

Harden, who lives in the Briarwood Mobile Home Park off Barger Drive, said the committee's recommendation should have been stronger. He wants to ensure that manufactured home owners get moving costs upfront before they move.

"That is awfully important because there are few people in these parks who happen to have a spare 15 grand laying around," he said. Residents should know how much money they would get and "they should get it prior to the closing of the park."

Brost and his wife, Cheryl, own Songbrook, a 140-space park on Royal Avenue.

He opposed the committee's compensation proposal because park owners could have to pay tenants' entire moving expenses.

Manufactured home parks provide affordable housing, which is good for society, Brost said.

He said a tenant's moving expenses should be split among the park owner, the state, the city and the tenant.

But when he argued that position before the committee, Brost said, "I was pretty much laughed out of the room."

Brost, who said he has no intention of selling his 32-acre mobile home park, also criticized the proposal for being vague.

"I don't see how there is any clarity to what (the moving expenses) may cost a landlord," he said.

However, Brost belongs to a statewide group that is behind a yet-to-be introduced bill in the Legislature that could pre-empt local ordinances.

The group, the Manufactured Housing Tenant/Landlord Coalition, is proposing that park owners pay tenants $5,000, $7,000 or $9,000 in moving expenses, depending on the size of their manufactured home.

The proposed law also would prohibit owners from giving less than one year's notice of a park closure. State law now allows less notice if the owner gives compensation to residents.

In Eugene, tenants who get notice of six months can receive up to $3,500 from owners. But the payment applies only to parks located in flood plains and on land with a commercial or industrial zoning, not residential zoning.

The recommendations from the manufactured home park committee would cover the owners of mobile homes in all parks, not just those in commercial zones or flood plains.

After receiving the proposals, the Housing Policy Board could forward them, perhaps with changes, to the Eugene and Springfield city councils and Lane County Board of Commissioners.

If commissioners act, there may be no need for Eugene and Springfield to pass ordinances because a countywide law would cover both cities, said Richie Weinman of Eugene's Planning and Development Department.

Harden said government officials must provide more land for mobile home parks.

"The time is rapidly approaching whereby the urban growth boundary must be expanded to provide space for developers to build needed new homes and to create areas specifically designated for manufactured housing," he said. "No such zone exists today."

Brost said Lane County's real estate market has cooled in recent months, which eases the pressure on manufactured home park owners to sell.

Still, park owners are constantly asked if their properties are for sale, he said. Many of the queries are from brokers on behalf of investors who want to own a park, Brost said, not developers who want to clear the land and put in housing subdivisions.

"Manufactured home parks are generally viewed as good investments," he said.




A committee of Lane County residents has suggested the following proposals for manufactured home parks:

Government: Lane County, Springfield and Eugene should establish protections for residents of manufactured home parks when park owners voluntarily close or convert their parks.

What and who is covered: All parks, not just parks in industrial or commercial zones or flood plains, all of which are currently covered. Covers residents who own and occupy their manufactured homes in closing parks. Does not cover residents who rent manufactured homes.

Counseling: Owners of a closing park should be required to hire a housing counselor to help residents move, including relocation assistance claims.

Notice: Maintain current requirement that park owners must give residents one-year notice of park closure.

Compensation: Park owners must either reimburse tenants for their "actual moving costs," or pay residents a "flat amount" before a park closes. The flat amount would be determined by the Housing Policy Board. If a manufactured home cannot be moved, the tenant has a choice of receiving the market value of the home, as determined by the county assessor, plus a flat amount for moving personal property, or flat payments for home and moving personal property. Amounts set by Housing Policy Board.

Other help: Local governments should work to preserve manufactured home parks as affordable housing by helping residents purchase parks from willing sellers or by assisting nonprofit groups to buy parks, and by providing land for new parks.

What's next: Housing Policy Board meets at noon today, McNutt Room, City Hall, 777 Pearl St. For more information, call Richie Weinman, 682-5533.
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Title Annotation:Government; A panel recommends policy on how to deal with residents who must move
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 5, 2007
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