As longtime readers of the Daily Business News on MHProNews May recall, the story that follows may well sound reminiscent of others in cities and towns across the U.S.
In Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other states, municipalities and local jurisdictions in recent years have often been accused of targeting manufactured home communities for elimination, sometimes hoping for possible redevelopment for another purpose.
Some of those city efforts to close a manufactured home community appear to be successful, while others meet with resistance.
Earlier this month, a long running dispute between the City of Bastrop, near the capitol city of Austin, TX and a manufactured home community over alleged code violations has culminated in a lawsuit filed that accuses the municipality of seeking to push it out of business.
“It appears that, despite plaintiff’s best efforts to avoid litigation, the city is intent on putting plaintiff out of business by making it financially unviable for plaintiff to operate and by prohibiting new permits without valid legal grounds to do so,” the lawsuit reads, says the Austin Statesman.
The legal action is the latest development in the city’s ongoing disagreement with the Bastrop Estates over concerns over drainage infrastructure, exposed sewer, water pipes, and fire safety issues.
Since 2017, the disagreements have caused the city to not issue permits to new tenants wanting to move manufactured homes into Bastrop Estates.
Attorneys representing the community’s owners said in their lawsuit’s pleadings that the city’s action has caused five home sites to remain vacant, which decreased the business’ revenue by $25,000 per year.
The Statesman’s account also says that the suit emphasized the affordable housing options the community brings to the area. It is a necessary one for people with a lower income.
“In light of the city’s actions, it appears the city prefers to limit the availability of such affordable housing,” the suit submitted by attorney Karl Seelbach of the Doyle and Seelbach law firm stated. It was filed May 3 in U.S. District Court, and names both the city and City Manager Lynda Humble as defendants.
City Attorney Alan Bojorquez said the city was served with the suit and said at that time that city officials have not yet had the opportunity to confer with legal counsel and thus could not answer questions posed by the media.
But in an emailed statement to the Advertiser, Bojorquez said that the city has no intention of closing the community.
“The city has repeatedly declared its support for affordable housing and recognizes this mobile home park as a source of affordable housing,” Bojorquez wrote in the emailed statement. “However, property owners who offer such housing options cannot do so in a way that exploits their residents and tenants, many of which are families with children, by failing to provide minimally safe and sanitary living conditions.”
The city official claim that the community has been cited with various code violations since the late 1980s but has never fully rectified those shortcomings. The 5.1-acre property, previously known as the Piney Crossing Mobile Home Park, has gone through several owners, and the property’s history of code violations date back decades.
The community includes 38 home sites. It was purchased in May 2016 by Clinton and Cammy Burns.
The suit claims that the city began withholding permits for potential new residents in October 2017 “without any prior violations or warnings” presented to the owners during a time when the park “had no malfunctions, unsanitary conditions or imminent or safety risks to its residents.”
The suit also claims that the city ignored the property’s grandfathered status which exempted Bastrop Estates from the codes the city was trying to enforce, and that the city confirmed to the Burnses that the property was a “nonconforming use,” or exempted from current ordinances, before they purchased it.
“The city’s illegal attempts to enforce inapplicable ordinances against plaintiff have a disparate and adverse impact on lower-income individuals who live in mobile home parks, many of whom are also minorities,” the suit states. “The city does not have any rational basis for its actions and it appears the city opposes this development because it does not fit the city’s vision.”
“I feel that there is a perception that my clients are not serious about addressing the city’s concerns and allegations,” McLean stated. “I can assure you that they are, and I can assure you that as long as I’m involved that I will encourage them to do what they can to address the situation.”
City Attorney Bojorquez said the city had repeatedly communicated concerns over the various code violations, “but those concerns just keep continuing.” He also opined that the city would rather the Bastrop Estate owners invest money on improvements than on litigation.
“Things like water contamination and fire danger are important not just to the residents of that park, but everyone in Bastrop,” Bojorquez said last May. “We’ve been trying to engage the property owners so they will put forth a plan to upgrade and fix the property.”
This is but one of numerous such cases, as recent and prior reports on MHProNews reflects. We plan to monitor this legal action.
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MHARR Launches “Fighting Discriminatory Zoning Mandates” Manufactured Housing Project | Manufactured Housing Association Regulatory Reform
Washington, D.C., May 15, 2019 – With manufactured housing producers, retailers and communities offering their best homes (and related consumer protection) ever, and in light of the failure of the ostensible representation of the industry’s post-production sector to fully and effectively advance the marketing, consumer financing and, most importantly, the full acceptance of federally-regulated manufactured housing as the nation’s premiere source of non-subsidized affordable housing and homeownership, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) has launched a new project and initiative to fight selected, especially egregious instances of discriminatory and exclusionary zoning targeting manufactured housing and manufactured housing consumers.
The last decade-plus has not been especially kind to the manufactured housing industry and consumers of affordable housing. The 21 stCentury began with a great deal of promise for the industry and consumers alike.