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Warren tours NL’s Golfview Mobile Home Park

Democrat presidential candidate rails against private investment firms putting profits first
Senator and Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D- MA) talks with Don Lund, a resident of the Golfview Mobile Home Park in North Liberty Friday, Sept. 20. Sen. Warren took a walking tour of the park to learn more about the effects on some residents in the wake of new corporate owners raising the lot rent significantly. Full disclosure – Lund covers University of Iowa sports for the Leader and the Solon Economist. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

NORTH LIBERTY– Earlier this year residents of the Golfview Mobile Home Park in North Liberty found out via a letter the park had been sold, and the new owners were going to increase the lot rent by 58 percent (from $284/month to $450). Havenpark Capital, a Utah-based investment firm also purchased Midwest Country Estates in Waukee, Sunrise Village Mobile Home Park in Iowa City and West Branch Village in West Branch. Havenpark Capital raised those rents from 69 percent (Waukee) to 28 percent (Sunrise).
Havenpark Capital’s website shows a manufactured housing community with the statement, “Securing and improving manufactured home communities to preserve long term affordable housing for our residents.” No other information is available on Havenpark’s website, which is password protected for investors only.
Candi Evans, a 21-year resident of Golfview, has taken issue with the rent increase and the notion of “affordable housing for our residents.” Evans reached out to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a Democrat presidential candidate, who has made reining in private investment firms and Wall Street a campaign issue. Sen. Warren wrote an op-ed piece in the Iowa City Press-Citizen in support of the residents. On Friday, Sept. 20, the Senator visited Evans and took a brief tour of Golfview with a cadre of media and campaign workers bearing cameras, in tow.
Warren took no questions from media representatives, who were allowed to listen in as she spoke with Evans, fellow resident and residents’ activist Don Lund (who covers University of Iowa sports for the Leader and the Solon Economist) and Cindy Wade, another resident and member of the Golfview Homeowners Association.
Lund, a 22-year resident, told Warren he’d returned home from covering a game when he found a note on his door informing him of the rent increase. She asked him if any increase in services were to go with the increase. “I suppose they’re gonna clean the place up a little bit,” he said. Warren asked about mowing his yard (Lund was born with only partial arms) and shoveling snow, and if that was provided. “No, that’s not necessary, I can scoop snow, I can mow. My neighbor helps out, it’s a great community.”
Warren asked if Havenpark’s goal was to “squeeze” the current residents out. “Yeah, yeah, and they’ve cracked down on the rules like you wouldn’t believe,” Lund said. Among the new policies are a moratorium (effective Oct. 1) against portable and permanent basketball hoops. Failure to comply, Evans said, will result in confiscation, disposal, and a fee. Also, wading pools are banned, Evans said.
“One guy had lights around his house for Christmas, and like, for Valentine’s Day he’d make ‘em red, and nope… all gone,” Lund added.
Such rules are not uncommon among mobile home parks. Bali Hai Estates in Hiawatha, for example, posts a “Fall Check List” on its website, which includes such requirements of residents as cleaning mold/mildew off of their homes, replacing or adjusting the skirting under the home, ensuring sheds are repainted, repaired, or have roof work done, replacing any rusty screws on the outside of homes, and putting “summer yard items” away for the winter. Bali Hai is also offering up to $3,000 to have a home moved into its community, or a year of free lot rent. Squaw Creek Village Mobile Home Park in Marion restricts dogs to 40 pounds or less, and bars pit bulls and Rottweilers.
Lund initially looked at relocating to another park with a $300 lot rent, but the cost ($4,000 to move his trailer) was more than he could afford. “They actually dropped it down to $900, but now they’re full,” he added, “So they reaped the benefits of 20-some trailers moving out of here.”
For some, having their home hauled off to another park is impossible for a variety of reasons ranging from cost ($2,000-$5,000 depending on distance and width of the home with additional fees for disconnecting utilities and setting up the home at the new site), lack of availability of open (and affordable) sites, and improvements that have been made to the houses over the years. In Evans’ case, she and her late husband had an addition built on to serve as an office when they owned a roofing business. Others have built on elaborate porches and decks and some have garages which would be abandoned in a move.
Older homes also have the potential for needing wheel and/or axle repairs before they can be safely moved. In addition, fees are also charged for escort vehicles while the trailer is on the road.
Tony Guerra, a writer for SFGATE (https://homeguides.sfgate.com) wrote the following in December 2018, “Double-wide mobile homes may cost more than $5,000 to move and then set up. Also, mobile home owners are usually responsible for removing their own skirting, deck, steps and landscaping prior to moving their homes. Sometimes, it may not even make financial sense to move a used mobile home. If you're considering a mobile home, try to negotiate transport and set-up costs as part of its purchase price or buy a new one that includes such costs in its base price.”
Lund told Warren forming the homeowners’ association has turned the battle from “me against them,” to “us.” The association is hoping to get legislation passed to protect trailer park residents, and provide them with more rights when dealing with property owners. “I’ve never really been politically active,” Lund said, “but I tell you what, when they’re coming after me, I guess they kinda forced me into it. I’m not gonna run for any seat or anything, but I’ll support.”
Warren told Lund their situation is not unique. “This has been going on for years,” she said. “These hedge funds, they come in and buy up a business, they strip out all of the value, they leave a hollow shell, run it through bankruptcy, lay off all of the employees and they don’t care. They’ve made their money, and whatever’s left behind is not their problem.”
Lund mentioned legislation in New York state, which requires new owners to give trailer park residents two years’ notice before any rent increases, “They gotta give each person $15,000, they can’t raise the rent any more than 3 percent per year, and a couple others. There are no rules here. Apartment people have more rules than we do, and we own our houses, what’s wrong with this picture?” He said he could move into a house in Northwest Iowa, but, “This is where I live. This is my community. Why would I want to move?”
Warren stood on a recently mowed vacant lot once populated by a mobile home with Evans and Cindy Wade, a member of the homeowner’s association. State Senator Zach Wahls (D-37) joined them. Warren surveyed the empty lot and said, "They come into parks like this with a vacuum and see how much money they can take out."
A request for comment by Havenpark was not returned by this reporter’s deadline.