The following is from Fred Neil, who is an elected official on the Dover, Delaware city council. What Neil addresses in his letter to the editor applies to various degrees to dozens of other states. This version sent to MHLivingNews has some modest tweaks by Neil from his original, but the meaning remains the same.
Delaware Taxpayers Shortchanged by Big Bucks
by Fred Neil, 3rd District, Dover City Council
The lack of affordable housing in Delaware penalizes every taxpayer in Delaware. The State election holds the key to ending housing abuse in Delaware do to Campaign cash. Unless you know where to dig, your favorite member of the State Legislature may be aligned with special interests who aren’t concerned about Delaware’s housing dilemma or the economy of the State. Information is available on FollowTheMoney.org.
Housing is the cornerstone of our economy. The headline of the August 3, 2020 News Release of the Housing Alliance read “AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS OUT OF REACH IN DELAWARE: In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Delaware, full-time workers need to earn $21.96 per hour. This is Delaware’s 2020 Housing Wage. It is the 17th highest housing wage in the country.”
Buying a home and the land is out of reach for low income families and many seniors. Buying a home on leased land, not subsidized by taxpayers, is an option. While the State Legislature has very slowly added protection from abuse, the leased land community owners have been able to insert inequities and holes in the Law to permit excessive rent increases.
It is important to taxpayers because exorbitant rent increases taken from homeowners can’t be spent in the local economy. The money goes in the pockets of investors who do not pay Delaware personal taxes. The homeowners pay the property taxes, not the corporation that owns the community.
The need for housing has resulted in corporations willing to pay huge sums to buy leased land communities in Delaware. MHC/ELS, Sun Communities, Hometown America and Michigan based RHP found Gold here.
After purchasing Murray Manor in New Castle County and my 55 Plus Community in Wild Meadows, RHP has jacked up the rents considerably. From the Wild Meadows monthly lot rent of $502.50 in 2017, my lot rent in 2020 is now $602.50. New buyers have been warned if they don’t sign a 4% compounded long term lease, they will pay $629 per month lot rent. Arm twisting?
The permitted CPI-U increase as of June 2020 is 1.367% or $10.08, a $16.42 per month difference or $197.04 additional profit per year.
Not only does this price gouging take money out of the Delaware economy from 40,000 to 50,000 families, it makes this form of housing less affordable and puts pressure on the minimum wage. Wouldn’t you think all elected officials would care?
You may not know the individual community owners, but you can look at the donations of the 1st State Manufactured Housing Association, representing the community owners. As reported in the Delaware State News in 2013, “Common Cause gives rise to concerns over the effects of Lobbying on public policy. Quoting the article, “CC drew a correlation between legislators 2012 votes on Senate Bill 205 that dealt with rent increases to manufactured housing, and contributions received from First State Manufactured Housing. The inference was that contributions to legislators and support of their interests were tied together.”
The First State PAC was not the only money community owners contributed to candidates who voted against Rent Justification. Through the 2018 Elections period, according to FollowTheMoney.org, 1st State has donated over $130,000 to Delaware Legislative Republican Candidates and over $51,000 to Democratic candidates.
You can see how legislators voted on Bills to protect seniors and low-income homeowners, or you can ask them if they received contributions from 1st State and how did you vote? One of the most popular answers will be, “Unintended Consequences”, if they give one. You can’t stop a community owner from selling.
Massive evidence of the extraordinary profits squeezed from Tenant Homeowners has been sent to Delaware legislators. These include: 2014: Bloomberg Markets Magazine, “Trailer Parks Lure Wall Street Investors Looking for Double-Wide Returns”; 2018 : Washington Post: “A billion dollar empire made of mobile homes” Wall Street Journal, 2020: “This Stock Has Returned 4,100%. Since the Housing Crash Owners of mobile-home parks have trounced the broader market thanks to soaring house prices, nimbyism and tenants that can’t move out”.
There are candidates on both sides of the aisle who wear Campaign Cash blinders. Your vote in November is priceless to those candidates who don’t.”
Additional Information, MHLivingNews Analysis and Commentary
Councilman Fred Neil is encouraging a discernment process. He suggests a resource and some references for making those choices. Neil also makes the argument why this choice matters to people who may not live in a manufactured home, or who may never live in manufactured home communities.
So, broadly speaking, there are two arguments that are posed by Councilman Fred Neil in his letter to the editor above. One is pragmatic, a practical argument as to why people should care about the issues he raises. Another is moral one.
Each has its own unique merits.
On the pragmatic side, another resident community activist, Tim Sheahan has previously made the public argument that when the free market was allowed to operate, manufactured home community living was very affordable. Competition that resulted from new developments and competing options for residents, Sheahan said, made affordability a reality. Sheahan, who was a prior president of the National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA), then said that it was later, after the free market was hobbled, that the kinds of woes described by Neil and others began to occur.
There are those who argue that legal intervention is needed to restore the balance. See the article linked above and below for more on those related points. The one below may not seem to relate at first, but for reasons noted further below in this analysis, it absolutely connects to parts of Neil’s understandable concerns.
The second argument Neil makes could be described as a moral one. Let’s explore that for a few moments.
Life is an endless series of choices. For example: what will you eat? What will you wear? What will you do with your spare time? And on through the seemingly endless list of choices made throughout the day, week, or year.
The United States is still in the midst of an undecided and doubtlessly to be contested presidential election as part of a general election. That won’t be the subject here. Rather, to is used to make the point that choices of all types are being made, day by day. Neil’s argument was framed in the context of local or state level elections.
Accepting Neil’s basic premise for the purpose of this commentary, let’s take a fresh look at the issue of making wise, informed choices.
Certain choices may indeed have both a pragmatic and a moral component. Before making that point, let’s note that some choice are merely a matter of taste. As an example, you like certain types of foods – they ‘taste good.’ You may dislike other types of food or drinks, their flavor doesn’t appeal to you. Taste is often not always a moral decision. So long as there are no health risks or harms to others, taste is morally neutral.
But what if your doctor has told you to not eat or drink certain things for the sake of your health? In such a case, there is a possible ethical or moral element to the question of choices of food, drink, or other things that might seem appealing, but that have a real and negative health consequence. Conversely, some food or drink might seem bland, but in this rather common hypothetical case of a doctor reasonably says that it would be good for your health in the proper proportions.
The argument can be made that Neil was urging his readers to make a moral choice, that goes hand in hand with a pragmatic decision. Affordable housing is important, and not supporting it has consequences for taxpayers and others that may never personally need or want an affordable home.
Neil would like to see his readers act upon moral and pragmatic reasoning. It is a well-reasoned letter.
Neil’s closing comments merit another look. Let’s note that MHLivingNews encourages for several reasons the use of proper terminology: i.e. manufactured home community vs. mobile home park. That said, the point by Neil remains the same. All of it has significance, but MHLivingNews has highlighted part of that, below.
“Since the Housing Crash Owners of mobile-home parks have trounced the broader market thanks to soaring house prices, nimbyism and tenants that can’t move out.
There are candidates on both sides of the aisle…[who] wear Campaign Cash blinders…”
That noted, something may appear to be legal, or might use the law as cover, but may still be immoral, corrupt, or unjust.
Neil didn’t argue – as some might – that the corporations should be stripped of their possessions. Rather, his argument is that the law should be encouraged to make corporate policies fair to their residents, given that “Campaign Cash,” “nimbyism” and the reality that manufactured home owners are not readily able to move and thus make a free choice. Neil urged his fellow citizens to pick lawmakers that could influence those public policies. Nimbyism means “Not in My Back Yard.” This is the reason that the topic linked above and here matters. Existing law provides for options, but for whatever reasons, those existing legal options under federal law are not being properly implemented. The evidence for that is precisely the problems described by Neil.
What is also noted by Neil is that many of those residents moved into a community sometimes years before their current owners took over. Restated, those residents did not select or ‘choose’ those owners.
Those owners in many cases bought the communities the residents were living in and then changed the rules and site rental rates that those residents were being involuntarily subjected.
The choice of the residents has been short-circuited. A common complaint is that their affordability is being eroded.
On the moral level, people of various faiths have long had the concept of economic justice, justice in business dealings. For instance, in ancient Jewish – for Christians, ‘Old Testament’ – thinking believed in just weights and measures. Those ancient believes were a way of expressing fairness for all, particularly mindful of those of lesser economic means.
Then there is this. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13, NIV.
The verse above does not condemn wealth, as this next verse reflects.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Tim. 6:10, NIV.
Neil doesn’t have to cite Scripture. But he does note that there is a consequence to decisions or failure to make decisions that favor economic justice. MHLivingNews and our MHProNews sister site has long argued that the application of existing laws could benefit residents and new consumers. Also, understanding more specifically those “special interests” that Neil names is useful too.
If the shoe were on the other foot, what would you want? The proverbial “Golden Rule” of Leviticus 19:18 was quoted by Jesus (see: Matthew 7:12; see also Luke 6:31) with this famous phrase.
“Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” Amen. There are reasons to give close head to the issues that Neil and others like him have raised.
Let’s draw to a close by noting that there are problems in other aspects of the housing industry.
There are millions of happy manufactured home owners, according to research by third party. That said, Neil’s concerns are well documented and merit interest and appropriate action.
Our nation has to get back to basics. That includes the simple yet profound notion of equal justice under law. Protecting the rights of our fellow citizens is a key part of that effort.
See the videos and related reports with interviews from experts and actual manufactured home owners, linked above and below to learn more. “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, lifestyle news, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.)
(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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