WASHINGTON — Jon Zang walks his dog several times a day in his mobile home community in West Goshen Township, Pennsylvania.
It’s quiet, as most of his neighbors are at work. But he often wonders how many more walks he and his bulldog mix, Ladybug, will have down the streets of the place he’s called home for 21 years.
“We’re literally sitting on a time bomb that we’re sure is going to go off at some point, but we don’t know when,” Zang said.
His park was purchased by an investment company, Walkart Inc., that residents say is trying to change the county zoning laws to close down a community that’s been home to 60 manufactured homes since 1957. Walkart, which could not be reached for comment, wants to build luxury apartments in its stead, according to Zang and a report in the Daily Local News.
“They just want this property to expand their stranglehold on the rental communities of West Chester,” said Zang, who pays $550 a month for his lot compared to an average rent in the area of $1,700 monthly for a one-bedroom apartment.
Mobile home parks provide affordable housing for millions of low-income residents — including seniors on fixed incomes — to own homes while renting the land underneath. The average cost of a manufactured home in 2019 was about $82,000, according to a report by Manufactured Housing Institute, a trade organization representing the industry.
But in an exploding housing market, that land is increasingly in demand for other projects, or park owners propose major rent hikes or changes in leases. Residents have few protections under a patchwork of state laws.
Congress might be expected to step in, since some mobile home parks are bought by private equity firms that use federally subsidized loans that carry low interest rates. But there’s been little movement in Washington, D.C.
“The invisibility of mobile home parks is a huge problem,” Andrew Rumbach, an associate professor with the Department of Urban Planning at Texas A&M University, said.
It’s difficult to understand the scope of people living in these communities, as there is no federal database. But it is estimated that there are 2.7 million mobile homes across 45,600 mobile home parks in 49 states, said Paul Bradley, the president of ROC USA — a nonprofit based in New Hampshire that helps residents purchase their mobile home communities.
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