Mobile homes provide affordable housing for
millions. But for private equity firms, they’re
just another asset to squeeze for profit.
By Francine Townsend
October 20, 2021 -- "Information
Clearing House -
For the last 20 years, I have lived and thrived in a
mobile home community. I loved where I live — right
up until Wall Street bought the park and threatened
the well-being of myself, my neighbors, and my
Mobile homes are a vital source of affordable
housing for around 3 million households across
45,000 communities in the United States. These
households have a median income of about $36,000 and
include vulnerable populations like seniors, the
disabled, and immigrants.
Our mobile home community was the sort of place
where every neighbor helped everybody. If my grass
wasn’t cut, the neighbor across the street would cut
it. If their grass didn’t get cut that week, I would
take care of it. That’s just how we were.
But things started to get harder in 2012, when
RHP Properties — a corporation entwined with
Brookfield Asset Management, a Toronto-based private
equity firm — took ownership of our mobile home
community in Spring Valley, New York.
Mobile home communities exist in part to give
disadvantaged, lower income, or retired people like
me the opportunity to have their own space. It’s
your own yard, with your own driveway.
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But RHP properties saw only a profit opportunity.
Soon after they took over, the money we were
required to pay to have our home in the community,
called the land fee or lot rent, started going up.
Way up. My land fee alone reached nearly $1,400.
But that wasn’t all.
RHP also started charging for services that were
once included in the rent, like water. Meanwhile the
services we pay for got skimpier and skimpier.
Potholes started developing in driveways and on
roads, trees were collapsing across people’s yards,
and garbage began to pile up. Maintenance requests
now go unanswered for months.
The situation has been developing for some time.
According to a
report by Americans for Financial Reform and MH
Action, an organization I work with, Wall Street’s
involvement in mobile home parks is a national
Corporate and private equity acquisitions of
mobile home communities have left residents across
the United States helpless. In some cases, they have
jacked up prices by up to 60 percent, layering on
school taxes, trash fees, and administrative charges
on top of the rent — all new costs that weren’t
Many also kicked out residents during the
pandemic, despite federal rules against evictions.
We need change and we needed it yesterday.
At the state level, we can protect mobile home
residents with laws to guard against excessive rent
increases, and lay the legal groundwork for
community-friendly ownership models that help
residents preserve the family-like atmosphere that
made my house a home.
At the national level, we need Congress to begin
a fundamental restructuring of the predatory private
equity industry by passing the Stop Wall Street
Looting Act. The law would make private equity
executives personally liable if they cause damage
and close tax and regulatory loopholes that benefit
These reforms would benefit far more than just
mobile home residents. Across the country, private
equity firms are price gouging people for many forms
of housing, as well as
shortening life expectancy in nursing homes,
destroying retail jobs, and
devastating local newspapers with ruthless
The private equity industry, in short, is
responsible for some of the most harmful business
practices in the United States.
My neighbors and I love where we live, and we
refuse to back down and abandon our homes. It’s time
for our elected officials to act.
Francine Townsend is a longtime resident
of a New York mobile home community. She’s a
member-leader with MHAction who organizes her
neighbors to protect affordability and advance
racial and gender justice in housing. This op-ed
was distributed by OtherWords.org.
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