US PRICE program will raise funds for resident-owned mobile home parks

A little-noticed bill introduced in the US Senate could make it easier for people who live in mobile home parks to pay for infrastructure improvements in their communities and, at the same time, play a bigger role in their financial security , according to the defenders. .

The $500 million Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement (PRICE) program would provide grants to resident-owned manufactured home parks to pay for upgrades and services. The money would also be available to co-ops, nonprofits, local and state governments, lending institutions and other housing agencies; and could support acquisitions, including resident purchases.

Joe Cicirelli, director of the Housing for Cooperative Development Institute, called the decision “a game changer”. The non-profit organization helps turn prefab housing stock into co-ops.

Hit: Private investors are buying up mobile home parks. These people of Wareham fought back.

“Residents are just starting to catch up, politics are just starting to catch up, and we’re really trying to level the playing field,” Cicirelli said.

The program would affect 3,500 households that are nonprofits or cooperatives and open up the option of resident ownership for the 20,000 households that are in manufactured housing in Massachusetts, according to the development institute.

Aerial view looking west across Pocasset Mobile Home Park in February 2020.

How is the PRICE program a game-changer?

The bill comes amid a nationwide trend of private equity firms and real estate investment trusts buying up mobile home communities and then raising rents.

The buying frenzy is fueled by billions of dollars in government-backed low-interest loans.

Under Massachusetts’ right of first refusal law, residents have the option to match and purchase their communities themselves. But they don’t have access to these low-cost grants or loans, which prevents them from competing fairly with private companies.

After: Residents battle to own Pocasset mobile home park: Judge to decide

Nationally, 80% of people who live in moveable housing earn less than 80% of the region’s median income, Cicirelli said.

“It’s going to be hard for locals to come up with millions of dollars,” he said.

Locally, residents of Pocasset Mobile Home Park are embroiled in a legal battle in Barnstable Superior Court, trying to buy their park while Crown Communities LLC also wants to buy it.

Residents of Royal Crest in Wareham were recently able to thwart an attempt by a private Arizona-based Legacy Communities to buy their park and instead acquired it themselves.

How could PRICE funding make a difference on Cape Cod?

Public money would help repair the outdated infrastructure that abounds in mobile home parks. This could include anything from septic tanks, electrical panels, road paving and tree removal.

Private park owners often postpone maintenance because “every dollar that goes to infrastructure is a dollar out of the owner’s pocket,” Cicirelli said.

Locally, he said he could imagine the bill would improve the lives of residents of Pocasset Mobile Home Park in Bourne. The park, built in the 1950s and 1960s, has many problems, including abandoned houses and trees in need of maintenance.

Earlier: Final arguments in the Pocasset mobile home park trial are scheduled for October

These upgrades would cost approximately $1 million.

Residents Association Board Member Albert MacDonald at Pocasset Mobile Home Park in August.  The association wants to buy the park.  Standing near his home on Third Avenue, he said the association's ownership of the park would likely allow for improvements.

The Residents Association is in a legal battle in Barnstable Superior Court to purchase their community. If a favorable ruling paves the way for resident ownership, the group could tap into federal money to help pay for infrastructure improvements.

Federal funding would ease the burden on residents who currently have to fund such projects out of rent alone.

“It would lower their land rent and it would help them build wealth,” Cicirelli said.

Where is the PRICE bill now?

Last month, the House Appropriations Committee voted to include the program in the FY23 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Funding Bill and related agencies.

A rusted trailer hitch on an abandoned trailer frame at the entrance to Pocasset Mobile Home Park in 2020.

Senate will begin aligning its version of the bill with the House version after Labor Day, Cicirelli says. He said nothing would likely be finalized until the midterm elections.

“It’s all volunteers from their communities stepping up,” Cicirelli said of residents striving to own their parks. “They don’t get paid and they do it to improve their communities.”

Zane Razzaq writes about housing and real estate. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @zanerazz.

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