Is Mobile Home Community Living Low-Income Housing?

In the Southern California region, there is a broad choice of housing ranging from very affordable to very expensive. Generally, multifamily rental housing, including mobile home parks, are considered to be affordable housing. However, the closer the apartments or mobile home parks are located to the beach or other desirable neighborhoods, the more expensive they are. Likewise, the farther inland or in less desirable neighborhoods, the less expensive all forms of housing become. The very same 800 square foot 1940’s bungalow located in San Bernardino will rent for a mere fraction of what it rents in Newport Beach. The real estate adage, “location, location, location” applies to all forms of housing.

Generally multi-family rental housing is considered affordable housing and mobile home parks are included in that category. It is important to note that there is a big difference between “affordable housing” and “low-income housing.” Affordable housing is available to everyone as a lifestyle choice, regardless of one’s income. It is very common to find people choosing to live in a nice apartment community or mobile home community because they like the lifestyle. It has nothing to do with whether they could afford to live in a larger or more expensive house.

Low-income housing is another type of housing entirely. To address the needs of low-income families, government has provided a variety of programs including Section 8 rent subsidy programs and other subsidized housing. To live in a subsidized low-income apartment or condominium the renter or purchaser has to meet the low-income criteria.

Cities are required to adopt housing elements identifying the types of housing in their communities. The number of single family homes, condos, apartments, mobile home parks and subsidized low-income housing is outlined in these housing elements. Many cities and counties have adopted zoning requirements that require developers to include affordable housing within their housing developments or to pay the jurisdiction a fee for affordable housing.

Apartments and mobile home parks are not low-income housing. They provide a rental housing choice that, depending on the location, can also be an affordable housing choice.

The reason behind the move from Senior to All Age parks.

The typical mobile home parks built in the Southern California region in the 1960’s and 70’s were build as senior parks to attract persons age 55 and older.  The typical home buyers were looking for a more carefree lifestyle that reduced home maintenance responsibilities and neighbors with similar interests.  Most communities provided clubhouses where residents gathered for various activities.

In 1988 the Federal Government Amended the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination of the basis of disability and familial status.  With the act, Congress intended to also preserve housing specifically designed to meet the needs of senior citizens and exempted from the law’s familial status requirements “housing for older persons” provided that the facilities provided “significant services and facilities for seniors and provided that:

• HUD has determined that the dwelling is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a Federal, State or local government program, or
• It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 or older or,
• It houses at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates intent to house persons who are 55 or older.

As a result of the change in housing laws and the added requirement to provide “significant services and facilities”in order to qualify as a “senior facility”, many mobile home parks determined that they could not qualify as a senior facility and changed to all age communities.  The Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA) got rid of the initial requirements for “significant services and facilities” for senior housing, however, by that time the demand for housing for families began to provide further incentives for mobile home parks to transition from senior to all-age communities.

Buying and Selling Trailers, Mobile Homes and Manufactured Homes in Rental Parks

A trailer is NOT a mobile home if it is less than 8 feet wide x 40 feet long and is therefore classified as a recreational vehicle (trailer).  The owners of these trailers/RV’s do not have a right to sell them in place.

A mobile home cannot be required to be removed upon a resale if it: 1) is more than 17 to 20 years old or older but meets health, safety and construction standards of state law; and 2) is not in substantially rundown condition or disrepair as determined in the reasonable discretion of management.

Prior to purchasing a manufactured home located in a rental park, the prospective buyer must be approved for tenancy in the park by the owner of the park.  The sale of a mobile home located in a mobile home park is a three-party, not two-party transaction.   The buyer and seller must not only agree to terms on the sale of the home, the buyer must be approved for residency in the park by the park owner/management.

Park management can withhold approval on the basis of: 1) the buyer’s inability to pay the rent and charges of the park and 2) the buyer’s inability to comply with park rules and regulations as indicated by prior tenancies.  Although guidelines used by other landlords or public agencies for rental housing may be more lenient, many park owners impose higher income requirements to assure buyers will be able to afford future rent increases without causing the park problems, such as evictions.

The seller of a manufactured home must provide the buyer with certain disclosures.