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Aug. 15, 2022

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Rent increases causing strife at Cascade Park Estates

Residents of 55-plus community in east Vancouver notified of rise in cost starting Jan. 1

By , Columbian Innovation Editor
Published:
6 Photos
Kimberly Erkenbrack holds a notice of the rent increase. There was one moment that struck her particularly hard: A unknown neighbor walked up while Erkenbrack was in her driveway, and she asked for boxes because she needed to move out. She couldn't afford to live there any more. "It was an old woman I didn't know," she said.
Kimberly Erkenbrack holds a notice of the rent increase. There was one moment that struck her particularly hard: A unknown neighbor walked up while Erkenbrack was in her driveway, and she asked for boxes because she needed to move out. She couldn't afford to live there any more. "It was an old woman I didn't know," she said. "I had already thrown the boxes away." (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When Kimberly Erkenbrack moved from California to Vancouver this year, seeking a more affordable place to live, she didn’t expect the cost of living to be rising so fast.

Soon after settling into her home at Cascade Park Estates, a place where residents 55 and older live, Erkenbrack got a letter from the property manager. It was a 90-day notice: On Jan. 1, her rent is increasing from $850 to $1,050 — a 23 percent increase.

The landlords, Vancouver-based Deer Point Meadows, owned by Vancouver residents Denise and Michael Werner and their daughter Brooke Torres, have been raising rental rates since they bought the property around 2015, when rent was $500 a month. Last year, they increased rent 17 percent, causing strain for the residents.

It’s not clear why the rent is increasing so fast, but residents of the quaint, gated community are facing the harsh reality of cutting back on their retirement lifestyles or being forced to move.

Deer Point Meadows did not reply to The Columbian’s request for comment.

A similar painful trend is being felt by apartment renters in Vancouver; apartment rates have more than doubled since 2010, according to Clark County data from Norris, Beggs & Simpson, a Vancouver-based real estate agency.

Erkenbrack, 59, and the other residents at Cascade Park Estates own their manufactured homes, but they rent the land upon which the homes sit. It puts them in a less protected position with no state law that limits the number of rent increases.

Erkenbrack said she bought the home for $94,000 and invested about $60,000 into renovations. She’s not sure how exactly she’ll have to cut back once the rents go up at the beginning of next year.

“I don’t know about cutting back until it comes,” she said. “I’m thinking about cutting my cable.”

She’s tried approaching the ownership to see about negotiation a slow increase in rental rates, but she’s had no luck.

She said some of her neighbors are having to move away due to the increases because they can’t afford it anymore.

There was one moment that struck Erkenbrack particularly hard: An unknown neighbor walked up while Erkenbrack was in her driveway, and she asked for boxes because she needed to move out. She couldn’t afford to live there anymore.

“It was an old woman I didn’t know,” she said. “I had already thrown the boxes away.”

Dick Sims, vice president of the Association of Manufactured Home Owners, said many of these residents are retired and are living on a fixed income. Some are forced to go to food banks and collect food stamps, he said.

“When you charge these kinds of rents, people have to go somewhere,” he said. “Many go live with a relative or in the worst-case scenario, they end up homeless; some have.”

The rent at Sims’ manufactured home in Kelso is between $594 and $750 a month, which increases every year. A $300 monthly increase is unusually high, he said.

Oregon limits manufactured home rent increases to 10 percent a year. Washington’s law doesn’t restrict the increases, but it states that landlords can only increase the rents once a year and must give a 90-day notice.

“The law really needs to be changed here. It’s getting absolutely ridiculous for some of these people.”

The number of mobile home parks in the state is decreasing as some owners shut down the parks once the residents are priced out, Sims said.

He hasn’t heard of a new one being built in a long time.

“These mobile home parks seem to be fading in popularity,” he said.

This article was updated to clarify that Norris, Beggs & Simpson is not affiliated with NAI.

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