Mobile home housing has been a hot topic in the legislature this year. Opponents of government involvement in this area say it is an unprecedented form of housing regulation in Iowa and will make conditions such that many trailer park owners will go out of business.
The fear, then, is that park owners sell their properties to developers who turn them into luxury apartments. Similar to a $15 minimum wage, it sounds good and makes people feel good, but when it happens, half the workforce finds itself working half the hours or unemployed because businesses cannot afford it.
There is an acknowledgment that what the Utah company did to start the problem was horrible, but there are also solutions that don’t jeopardize the entire industry and put dozens of lot owners out of business. And, in the process, thousands of low-income people on the streets.
Dave Sires, who owns some mobile home parks and is a member of the Cedar Falls city council, said they’re going to eliminate mobile home parks.
“They want to regulate the rents,” he said. “They have all kinds of other things that they are talking about in that bill that are wrong. The problem we have is outside corporations have come in and bought parks and then with no regard to the people who live there raise the rents until they’re exorbitant prices.”
Sires said they’ve allowed seniors to move into apartment buildings and have their rent subsidized. That option isn’t available for seniors living in the mobile home park.
“They could’ve had their lot rent subsidized, kept their homes and been more independent,” Sires said. “They haven’t done the same things for mobile homes that they’ve done for everybody else. Mobile homes are a great, affordable way to live. You build equity when you pay for your home, but when outside organizations come in and raise rents and make them huge, it becomes not affordable anymore.”
Sires compared it to regulating a farmer when commodity prices are way up.
“If you’re in a place that’s more desirable, your rent will be higher,” Sires said. “But to jump them up to that all at once is not fair to the tenants.”
As for the park that was purchased and then rent jacked up 67 percent, Sires said he doesn’t blame tenants for throwing a fit.
“That never should’ve happened in the first place,” he said.
But, out-of-state companies come in from California where it may be $1,200 or $1,500 a month and from Colorado where it may be $700 a month and see $300 in Iowa and think they can get way more.
“But we don’t have that higher standard of living,” Sires said. “We have older people maybe living in those homes and when they gouge those people, it’s not fair to the people who are living there and making it a good place to live. When they say they can throw people out for no reason, no park wants to throw somebody out for no reason. They want to generate income from that property. For them to say that is just absurd. We want people to live there and be happy and pay the rent and be happy.”
If regulations like those being discussed would pass, Sires said his time in the business would be over.
“If they lay all these laws on me, I’m just going to go out of business,” he said. “Fifty-seven years I’ve been in business and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of people who don’t know anything about the business going to tell me how to run it. That’s what’s wrong.”
The bill failed to make it out of committee in either the House or the Senate, so it is dead for the remainder of this legislative session.