Youngkin Amends Mobile Home Park Bill

Youngkin Amends Mobile Home Park Bill

Good news! My years-long effort to empower mobile park residents continues with the passage of HB 1397, which I introduced this session to expand resident and locality rights. But, bad news: the Governor removed important provisions in my bill. Nonetheless, it still increases relocation expenses statewide, offering flexibility in its use. Moreover, the bill allows localities the authority to impose fees on park sales, potentially offsetting compensation for immobile homeowners.

Over 350,000 Virginians reside in manufactured home parks, constituting 6% of existing single-family housing in the Commonwealth. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, these homes serve as a significant source of naturally occurring, non-subsidized affordable housing nationwide. However, many of these communities face threats such as rising rents, unreasonable rules, and redevelopment schemes displacing low to moderate-income residents. 

Notably, the 16th district is home to five parks: Audubon Estates, Harmony Place, Engleside/Rays, Penn Daw Terrace, and Woodley Hills. Residents in these parks, often homeowners, face unique challenges as they own their homes but rent the land beneath them.

Contrary to their name, mobile homes become immobile after a few years, making relocation financially prohibitive. Forbes estimates that in 2024 the average cost to move a home is around $9,000, but it can be higher. The size, condition, distance, permits, and insurance needed contribute to the cost, often much higher than residents can afford. That’s why I passed legislation in 2020 to assist residents facing park redevelopment by providing relocation funds of $2,500, or $3,500 for Northern Virginia, which with my new bill will be upped to $5,000 now from July 1, 2024, statewide. Although that is still too low to move most of these homes, politics is the art of the possible.

To make matters worse, basic tenant rights under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act did not include residents of manufactured home parks. That will now change with the recent signing of legislation I worked on and that was spearheaded by Sen. Ghazala Hashmi and Del. Karrie Delaney to extend those protections to manufactured home park residents. These rights include halting automatic lease renewals, rejecting changed lease terms, capping late rent fees, and granting the right of redemption. For example, fees for late rent payments are now capped at 10% of rent or 10% of the balance the renter owes the landlord. The right of redemption is the right to remain in one’s home after receiving a court-ordered unlawful detainer for late or missing rent if one has paid off the owed amount.

Originally, my bill aimed to extend the notice period a manufactured home park owner must give residents of any potential sale before final acceptance of an offer, grant resident associations, nonprofits, and localities the opportunity to purchase their park, and prohibit the inclusion of a penalty clause in an offer to purchase the park that requires park owners to pay a penalty if the sale isn’t finalized. In a recent case in my district, Fairfax County stepped in to assist residents in financing an offer to purchase their park, but even after submitting an offer surpassing the original, the owner could not accept the higher offer due to a penalty clause. The bill also provided the right of first refusal for the locality to purchase the manufactured home park provided that they maintain it as a park for at least 30 years following the sale. This would have enabled localities like ours concerned about losing affordable housing the right to purchase at-risk mobile home parks to maintain that critical affordable housing in their community. All of these provisions together would give residents a fighting chance to acquire ownership of their parks and thereby save their homes.

While I was disappointed to learn that the Governor’s amended version of HB 1397 struck out many of these provisions, the remaining portion that increases relocation expenses to $5,000 and expands them to park residents statewide is a step in the right direction. In addition, while past iterations of relocation expenses had to be put toward moving the manufactured home, now that money can be used as the residents see fit. Also included in the amended version was eliminating the prohibition on localities from charging fees to park buyers and sellers to help cover the cost of compensation to owners whose homes are too old to be moved.

Half a loaf is better than no loaf, so I plan to accept the Governor’s recommendations. Nevertheless, it frustrated me to learn that the companion budget item to my legislation, which would have created a revolving loan fund to assist nonprofits and associations of tenants residing in manufactured home parks in acquiring the land on which homes sit, was stripped out in the Governor’s new recommended budget. 

The housing crisis is not going away unless we remain steadfast in our commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing for Virginians. I remain resolved to continue fighting for manufactured home park residents in future sessions.