Tenants in Southwest Washington mobile home parks say they are turning to legislative changes to establish protections from rising rents.
“Until the law is changed so that (park owners) can’t continue to raise rents at whatever rate they want, then we’re at their mercy,” said Steve Breshears, a tenant in Woodland East Mobile Home Park.
Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, visited Cascade Park Estates in Vancouver last month after hearing about $125 rent increases. He was familiar with the park because he once considered moving his mother there.
The park has been in the news recently following a series of community meetings Cascade Park residents held to protest the planned rent increases.
“These are people on fixed incomes whose rent space has been anything but fixed,” Harris said.
Harris, who plans to join a legislative subcommittee focused on manufactured homes, said one possible remedy would be giving tenants the first right of refusal to buy a park if an owner lists it for sale. They could collectively buy the park and enter a co-op model.
While it doesn’t solve today’s problems, Harris said, it could help homeowners at other parks control costs.
Resident-owned communities have been championed by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission and are used in places such as Longview and Centralia. Tenants in another Longview park, Columbia Trailer Court, purchased the park for $1.2 million under a state program meant to preserve low-income housing.
A group of Cascade Park Estates tenants said they would like to enter a co-op if buying the park was possible.
Rep. Ed Orcutt, a Kalama Republican, introduced two bills during the recent legislative session that were intended to mitigate rapid rent increases for mobile home park tenants. Neither of them were successful, but Orcutt said this week that he plans to revisit them during the upcoming legislative session.
Earlier this year, Oregon passed a bill limiting rent increases to 7 percent per year, plus inflation. According to OPB, the bill exempts rental properties less than 15 years old and limits a landlord’s ability to evict tenants without reason. Mobile and manufactured home parks are included.
According to a Portland State University report reported on by The Oregonian, the new law will benefit few renters.
Rent-control efforts have failed to gain traction in Washington.