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Mobile home tenants need protection.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Jerry Harden For The Register-Guard

Mobile home park tenants in Eugene need Mayor Kitty Piercy's help. We need a temporary moratorium on mobile home park closures until the Eugene City Council or the state Legislature has an opportunity to act.

Many indicators suggest that the problems of park closures in Portland will be repeated in Eugene, and throughout Lane County. We need protection now to give the City Council time to fashion a solution that addresses the needs of residents as well as park owners.

There is a precedent for a temporary moratorium. About 27 years ago, a crisis developed concerning the conversion of apartments to condominiums. A moratorium on conversions was put into place. This allowed the City Council to craft an ordinance that addressed all parties' concerns. Do our mobile home park residents deserve any less consideration?

The Lane County Housing Policy Board has established a committee to study the park closure issue and to make recommendations for possible action by Eugene, Springfield and Lane County. Due to the complexity of this issue, it's likely to be many months before action occurs.

Mayor Piercy has demonstrated her concern about this issue. She took personal time on a Sunday afternoon in May to visit concerned residents at Briarwood Mobile Home Park. Her parting words were, "Please keep me informed and let me know what I can do to help." Now, we need Piercy's leadership skills.

A crisis is now occurring in the Portland area. Washington County alone has experienced the closure of 13 parks in the past 18 months - 985 home spaces have been lost. An additional 150 spaces will be lost with the scheduled closure of two more parks.

If only one medium-sized park closes in Eugene, there are not enough spaces in all of the remaining parks to accept the homes to be moved. What counsel will Piercy offer to those who are willing to move their homes, but have nowhere to move them? What about those who cannot move? Is the mayor aware that some parks will no longer accept single-wide homes of any age, or homes older than six years?

A significant percentage of owners of mobile homes in parks are seniors, disabled or living on low incomes. These people's homes are much more than a place to live. Their homes allow them to be a community, with social lives and a support network (including long-term caregivers who may be unable to travel to a new location).

Even those who are able to move may be unable to afford it. The upfront cost of moving a single-wide home can exceed $15,000. Many low-income mobile home owners fail to meet lending institutions' credit standards, even though they are among the most reliable in meeting their financial obligations.

As a resident in an at-risk park, I dread opening The Register-Guard to read that my park has been sold. Under the current law, I might well lose my home and receive no compensation.

To our Legislature's credit, a new law provides an income tax credit of up to $10,000. That was a step in the right direction, but it falls far short of fixing the problem. The credit is available only if a homeowner's home is moved. Claiming the credit will be quite a challenge for residents who discover there are no spaces available to accept their homes.

Substantial profits can be made by converting parks to a higher use. Is asking for a temporary hold on the park owners' profits while solutions can be found and put in place asking too much?

We not only have a growing population, we have an aging population. In the past, people nearing retirement had the option of reducing living costs by purchase of an in-park mobile home. This option is about to vanish. Where will our seniors, our disabled and our low-income families live?

We need Mayor Piercy's help. If not her, who will help us?

Jerry Harden (mail4jah@clearwire.net) is a member of the Housing Policy Board committee studying the mobile home park closure issue. The views stated in this essay are his own.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 22, 2006
Words:692
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