Mobile home park residents continue to struggle, face new hurdles in 2023
PRINCETON, W.Va. (WVVA) - Mobile home park residents across Mercer County, W.Va. said Thursday they’re facing increased pressure to vacate their homes. Three different residents WVVA spoke with said they received the exact same notice on Wednesday -- adding requirements from managerial approval to sell one’s home, to requirements surrounding lawn care, pet ownership, home alterations and much more. Those new requirements all came following a near-doubling of lot rents in at least five mobile home parks in the county, all of which those we spoke with Thursday currently reside in.
Residents WVVA spoke with said such requirements had never been an issue at their respective parks previously, with some speaking on decades of residency in the same mobile home.
Now, as of Thursday, lot-renters said they are nearing a breaking point.
“It’s a constant state of worry,” said Valeria Steele, Elkview Mobile Home Park resident. “It’s constant, ‘what’s going to happen today?’ What are they going to put in the mailbox? What’s going on?’”
“When you’ve lived here this long you never can foresee something as stupid as this coming about,” said a Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park resident who wished to remain anonymous.
“They basically want to try to make it so expensive to live here that it’s pointless,” said a Gardner Estates Mobile Home Park resident who wished to remain anonymous. “That’s why people choose to live in trailers most of the time. It’s lower income families.”
As of Thursday, droves of now-former residents had already either decided to, or been forced to move out of the parks in question. As others continue to hold out, rent rising above $500 a month, compared to less than $300 in late 2022, is threatening their ability to stay as well.
“I remember when I was a little girl, people helped people,” said an anonymous woman. “They checked on their elderly. I’m tired, I don’t feel good.”
“It’s always prevalent in your mind,” said Steele. “It’s really sad to sit there sometimes when it’s just me and my thoughts, and I’m just like ‘what will I actually do?’”
Steele provided additional comments to WVVA on the situation as well. Those comments include, in-part:
In case readers aren’t yet aware, some out-of-state rich people – through private equity organizations – are buying up manufactured housing communities like mine, Elkview Mobile Home Park, and raising the lot rent to unconscionable amounts. I’ve owned my home for fourteen years and my lot rent never exceeded $225 per month. When one of these groups bought our community in 2022, they gave residents a 60-day notice, right before Christmas, that they were raising our rent from $225 to $525. That’s an 130% increase in just two months’ time.
I get by on a fixed income while I care for my adult disabled son, Jonathan. For people like me, this rent hike is a ticket to the poorhouse. For some of us, it will mean displacement and even homelessness.
You might be thinking, “Why should I care?”
You should care because people who live in these communities are your neighbors. We work in your hospitals, your schools, and as the first responders who show up when you’re in trouble. Unlike these millionaire buyers who send every penny they make off our backs straight out of West Virginia, we live and work here. That means we spend money in local stores, pay local taxes, vote here, and are accountable to our community in ways these out-of-state rich people will never be.
Steele and others have been in contact with Mountain State Justice, a non-profit law firm with an office in Princeton -- which tells WVVA it is seeking an injunction against the recently-hiked lot rents. A representative added they plan to seek damages beginning next week as well.
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