While tampabay.com writer Drew Harwell pounds owners of manufactured housing communities (MHCs) for taking advantage of people of limited means—”Mobile home parks charge homeowners every month to rent their square of dirt and concrete,” he says, which is not exactly complimentary of the residents either, because “they can’t afford to live anywhere else,” he adds—people he interviews tend to like their homes. Describing a couple who moved from Baltimore “1,000 miles south to a field of asphalt in the Florida pine flats” and put angel figurines in the front yard of their home in Countrywood, the woman, Una Kemper says, “As far as I’m concerned I’m in paradise.”
Harwell says a new wave of investors is getting into the MHC marketplace because it is profitable, and residents have weak credit, low savings and cannot afford to move. Countrywood, an MHC on the north side of Plant City, which Harwell calls a “desolate flatness far from anything else,” is the home of Jim and Carolyn Young, who moved here more than ten years ago and bought a $28,000 multisection MH. Paying $500 a month for site rent and utilities, which they say is less than their house payment was before, they have tennis matches, bingo and other social events that keep them busy and they love it. “You can’t live as good as you can live here, out there, for this amount of money,” Jim says.
Harwell says revenue for Equity LifeStyle Properties (NYSE:ELS), which owns Countrywood, jumped six percent to $187 million last year and owns 120 other communities in Florida. He does note the community is definitely upscale with golf carts buzzing around taking residents to different activities. Patrick Waite, ELS’ executive vice-president of operations says, “We’re basically running small cities. It’s not a very sexy business, but it’s a very good investment.”
“People are living longer today than ever before, and the financial status of those people is changing,” says Jim Ayotte, the director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association (FMHA). “They’re saying, ‘If I’m going to be around till I’m in my 90s, do I have enough money to live?’” As MHProNews.com understands, the residents have spoken. ##
(Photo credit: Equity LifeStyle Properties–Lake Have, Clearwater, Florida)