By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY
Mobile home parks around the USA are being scooped up by developers, depleting affordable housing in many booming real estate markets and spurring states and counties to help residents being evicted.
From Las Vegas to the Tampa Bay area, the scarcity and rising price of land have made mobile home parks a hot commodity. Developers are replacing the trailer parks with condominiums, town houses, strip malls and big-box stores.
“It’s the old axiom: location, location, location,” says Bruce Savage, spokesman for the Manufactured Housing Institute, the Arlington, Va.-based trade association for mobile home manufacturers and park owners. “Suburban sprawl has now surrounded these communities. Suddenly you have a 10- to 15-acre property in a suburban area, and it becomes an attractive target … for commercial and residential developers.”
About 22 million Americans live in mobile homes. Most don’t own the land their homes sit on. And despite their name, many mobile homes are not movable because they have porches, are in poor condition or can’t meet the standards of newer parks.
In expensive real estate markets, trailers often are the only way for working-class families or seniors on fixed incomes to afford a home.
Many states require park residents be given the first chance to buy the property if the owner wants to sell. But the park closures leave many residents with few places to go.
“I don’t know where these people are going to go live,” says Leo Plenski, president of the homeowners association for the Bay Pines Mobile Home Park in Pinellas County, Fla. Even if some residents get paid for their trailers, he says, “they’re going to be sitting under a bridge with $18,000.”