One of the last affordable housing options is becoming unaffordable. Mobile home park residents across the country are fighting against big investors and rising rent prices.
"They house a variety of folks from immigrants, to veterans, to folks that are on disability, that want to own something of their own,” said Meghan Carrier, an organizer with Together Colorado. “A mobile home is the most affordable thing to do that. However, very recently, corporations have been coming in and buying mobile home parks for millions of dollars and raising the lot rent."
Mobile home investors are getting some of the strongest returns in real estate. They are also shaking up a community that houses more than 22 million Americans, most of whom are low-income.
A growing industry teaches people how to invest in mobile home parks. There are how-to books, webinars and even a Mobile Home University that offers tips on raising rent and maximizing profits.
According to All Parks Alliance for Change, in Minnesota, park purchases by out-of-state buyers grew from 46% in 2015 to 81% in 2021. Rent climbed as much as 30% in that same time.
“Before the new ownership at my park, I would pay $485 a month for rent on this lot,” said Susan Gibson, who has lived in a mobile home park in Boulder, Colorado, for more than 26 years. “Now, I pay $850 a month. So, it’s gone up a lot. Our landlord believes this lot is worth $1,400 a month. When it gets that high, I will not be able to live here.”
Many people have been forced to leave or sell their homes.
"Since everywhere is so expensive now, it's almost like they figured out that ‘oh these poor people, if they get evicted, they're not just getting evicted but losing the one most valuable thing they own,’” Gibson said.
States across the country are trying to mitigate the problem. Nonprofits and lawmakers are pushing to get some type of aid to residents.
"What we've tried to do here in Colorado, and what you see nationwide, are a number of efforts to help residents have a handhold inside of those transactions,” said Colorado Rep. Andrew Boesenecker. “If a park comes to sale, they have a chance to purchase that park.”
Advocates for residents want lawmakers to put a cap on rent or require a reason for an increase or eviction. A law passed in Delaware this year. However, similar legislation failed in Iowa, Colorado and Montana.
Without a rent cap, advocates say parks won't remain affordable.
"We need to stabilize the lot rent and that will either come through a law or folks owning their parks," Carrier said.