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News / Clark County News

Residents in Hazel Dell mobile home park dealt losing hand after rent control bill dies in Washington Legislature

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter, and
Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: February 27, 2024, 6:03am
5 Photos
Jayne McCarley, left, a resident of Meadow Verde Mobile Home Park, looks over paperwork including her rent increase notice with fellow resident Michelle Bart at her Hazel Dell home Monday morning hours before they knew a rent stabilization bill would die.
Jayne McCarley, left, a resident of Meadow Verde Mobile Home Park, looks over paperwork including her rent increase notice with fellow resident Michelle Bart at her Hazel Dell home Monday morning hours before they knew a rent stabilization bill would die. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Several residents of a Hazel Dell senior mobile home park gambled that rent stabilization legislation would pass — and lost.

Their landlord at Meadow Verde had asked them to sign a lease agreement that included a discounted rent increase if they signed by Sunday. Some of the residents weren’t due to sign a new lease for almost a year.

The discount tempted many of the residents who live on fixed incomes. But they believed the early rental agreement was an effort to lock them in at rent increases higher than the 7 percent cap in a rent stabilization bill before the Legislature. So they didn’t sign, putting their future in the hands of lawmakers.

Then, on Monday, that legislation — House Bill 2114 — effectively died when the Senate Ways and Means Committee refused to vote on it.

“I feel like crying,” resident Michelle Bart said when she heard the news. She and her 75-year-old mother did not sign the new lease.

Both are deeply in debt. They invested most of their savings into repairing their home, which they own. They pay rent for the land beneath it. Now, Bart and her mother will pay $1,020 a month, an 11.4 percent increase, rather than a discounted $990. It may not seem like much of a difference, Bart said, but both she and her mom, like many in the park, are living on the edge.

“We really had a lot of faith in our elected officials on both sides to do what’s right. They failed the people that needed them most,” Bart said.

Jackie Harry, 80, also did not sign the paperwork. She said she was upset to hear the bill died. Now, she’ll also pay an increase of about 11 percent.

“I was taking a gamble,” she said. “I’m disappointed.”

Meadow Verde’s owner, Russ Millard, testified against the rent stabilization bill at a recent legislative hearing.

“If you want more housing or upgrades to the housing stock, you incentivize it. If you want less, you have rent control,” Millard said during a Feb. 22 hearing.

Millard said capping rents would make it more difficult to make repairs and maintain manufactured housing communities.

“It’s often less stable to own a house than it is to rent it because of the surprises,” he told lawmakers.

Meadow Verde’s park management did not respond to requests for comment about the timing of the earlier-than-usual rental agreements.

Jayne McCarley, 84, didn’t expect to find a new lease agreement on her doorstep in January because her renewed lease started in December.

“This is almost a year in advance. When you’re talking about a senior park, this is very strange. You don’t know what’s going to happen when you’re 84,” she said.

She signed the new lease agreement with the rent increase before the deadline, ensuring she’d get a $30-a-month discount.

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“I had to. I couldn’t afford not to,” McCarley said.

Without the discount, she said, the rent would be more than her fixed monthly income. Instead of paying an 11 percent rent increase, she’ll pay an 8 percent increase.

But without rent caps, she fears another rent increase, which have been outpacing increases in her Social Security payments.

“One more rent increase, and I’m on the streets,” she said.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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