“It’s coming in, setting down the rules, taking pictures, circling everything, and letting us know who’s in charge,” said George Zuccolotto, a resident of Viking Terrace manufactured home community in Northfield, MN to WCCO 4. “It felt very intrusive and scary for people [living in Viking Terrace], because they were also asking for documentation, and there are immigrants here.” CBS Minnesota’s reporter Jonah Kaplan noted that the manufactured home land lease communities may be “colloquially’’ known as “mobile home parks” but the homes are costly to move because they are not so “mobile.” “People have really made this place [Viking Terrace] home and made their properties their own,” Zuccolotto said. “It’s working class, but it’s also hardworking people who save hard and love life. It’s not the city and it’s not the country. It’s our own thing.”
Viking Terrace reportedly has about 150 home sites. The community was purchased earlier this year  by Lakeshore Management. According to residents, Lakeshore soon sent them an updated 40 page lease agreement, which includes a 20% rate hike and “myriad new restrictions.”
Several media outlets reported that Lakeshore’s management would not comment, but one reply from the firm is noted further below.
More About Lakeshore Management
As backdrop, according to the Lakeshore corporate website, “Lakeshore is always actively acquiring manufactured home communities. We are easy to do business with and work with owners, brokers and industry professionals. We pride ourselves on transparency and take into consideration all aspects of the process from due-diligence to the transition after closing. We can offer flexible and fast transactions, with no financing contingencies and our track record speaks for itself.
If you are a community owner looking to sell, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. Our preferred criteria are simple: located within a major metropolitan market and larger than 75 home sites.”
Their website also says: “We purchased our first manufactured home community in 1998, and today we own and operate many more communities across 9 states. Lakeshore has been able to grow rapidly by embracing a value-add philosophy. We create value organically by improving and caring for our communities with a long-term outlook; we buy-and-hold, we don’t flip.” Among the states the firm says they operate in are:
- New Jersey
- New York
Their corporate website touts “philanthropy” – naming certain charities they state that they support. Scholarships and an annual home fix up program for a resident that can’t afford to do their own work are part of their pitch too. Put differently, they appear to be following the playbook of several members of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) National Communities Council (NCC) and/or their state association “affiliates.”
The Twin Cities Star Tribune newspaper said on 7.14.2022 that “Viking Terrace…Residents of the Northfield mobile home park clash with owners over recent changes.”
KYMNradio reported on 7.1.2022 the following.
As the residents of Viking Terrace struggle to adhere to, and even understand, policies and changes put in place by the new ownership company, Lakeshore Management, they are also looking for ways to buy the park from Lakeshore and create a resident owned cooperative.
Mar Valdecantos of Rice County Neighbors United, an advocacy group working with the residents, said the topic had been raised with the previous owners many times, and there was hope that when they were ready to sell, the Haan family would approach the residents about buying. That, however, did not happen.
Northfield City Councilor and Viking Terrace resident, George Zuccolotto, said being notified of the sale after the fact was hurtful, but hardly surprising. Large companies have been buying up smaller and family-owned trailer parks for many years, due to stronger demand for manufactured and affordable housing. Zuccolotto said, he has been expecting something like this in Northfield for at least two years, and, in fact, it was one of the driving reasons he ran for City Council. He said he had even suggested that the city buy the park in order to avoid this situation.
Lakeshore Management does not enjoy a strong reputation across the country. Comments left on the Better Business Bureau website consistently portray the company’s management style as combative, non-transparent, and quite often detached. These comments mirror the way Viking Terrace residents describe their experience so far, creating the need for organization. They have begun the process of creating a Homeowner’s Association. The next step, they hope, will be to take ownership of the park itself.
Valdecantos sits on the board of a non-profit called the North Country Cooperative Foundation. She said the organization works with manufactured home parks and residents in this very situation and helps them find a path to ownership. …”
As that radio station’s report itself indicated, once a community is purchased by a consolidator of land-lease communities, it is not typical to see it later become a cooperative. Nevertheless, the goal of the residents at Viking Terrace is noted and the work of North Country Cooperative and others involved in the resident owned community movement has been noted for years by our MHLivingNews sister site and here on MHProNews as well.
“Minnesota offers some protection to manufactured home community residents by requiring community owners or buyers, in some circumstances, to give 45 days’ notice and a right of first refusal (meaning that the community owner is obligated to sell to the residents if they match the terms of the other offer).” That is per the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), which calls into question if Viking Terrace residents were informed of Lakeshore Management’s purchase of the community? Those related issues about notice and the right of first refusal for the circumstances involving Viking Terrace residents is unclear at this time.
In a Facebook post Zuccolotto addressed Viking Terrace residents directly by saying, “It’s going to be a fight but I’m here with you.”
WCCO said that the residents sought to protect themselves and their “special status” by organizing a neighborhood association. That was reportedly being done with Zuccolotto’s leadership, who CBS Minnesota noted “happens to be a member of the Northfield City Council.”
That Viking Terrace based resident-association then contacted Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Ellison has been known to get involved in other manufactured home community and industry related issues previously, as the linked reports linked further below reflect.
To protect themselves – and their special status – Zuccolotto, who happens to be a member of the Northfield City Council, helped organize a neighborhood association and then called Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
The attorney general’s Special Outreach and Protection Unit then took up the case and intervened, as Minnesota law mandates that new rules for manufactured-home parks must be “reasonable” and may not be “substantial modifications” of existing rules.
“What we’re trying to do is signal to landlords that you’ve got to treat these tenants with respect,” Ellison told WCCO. “You’ve got to treat a residence of manufactured housing with true dignity and respect.”
According to Ellison, the rules imposed by Lakeshore were “draconian,” prohibiting vegetable gardens without Lakeshore’s permission, forbidding outdoor laundry lines, and banning fenced-in-yards for pets.
Ellison on Friday planned to visit Viking Terrace to update residents on his office’s communications with Lakeshore, which he said is “doing the right thing” by renegotiating the lease agreement. Lakeshore did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment or an interview.
Zuccolotto said the process, while frustrating, is also a relief, because it shows the good in how a neighborhood can come together and set an example for others.
“There’s creativity that can be done in this,” he said. ##
Additional Information with More MHProNews Analysis and Commentary in Brief
As a congressman and now as a state attorney general, Ellison has periodically delved into manufactured housing connected controversies, like this current one.
As Zuccolotto is cited as observing, this process of larger consolidators moving into buy previously ‘mom and pop’ owned communities has been spreading for some time. Previous reports on that issue are linked below.
What is less noted by mainstream media is that this process may involve possible violations of antitrust, RICO and perhaps Hobbs Act laws.
Also not noted by mainstream media is the routine ties that such so-called predatory firms appear to routinely have with MHI and/or an MHI state affiliate.
See the linked reports to learn more. ##
‘Depriving People of Their Rights, Property Until Their Children Wake Up Homeless on the Continent Their Fathers Conquered’ – Shocking Case Illuminates U.S. Tragedies; plus Sunday Weekly Recap
‘We’re All Afraid’ New York Times, Washington Post, Expose Manufactured Housing Again As Giant Firm Praises Manufactured Home Option– Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Link –Facts & Analysis
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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