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Rollercoaster Ride may be Ending for Manufactured Home Community?

April 21st, 2017 Comments off
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East End Residents attend a Manassas city meeting. Credit: Potomac Local.

A long, and often confusing rollercoaster ride for residents at the East End Mobile Home Park in Manassas, Virginia may be coming to an end.

But, as has been the case for the community, it won’t come without clearing a few hurdles.

Per InsideNova, James Turner, an Alexandria lawyer and the owner of two other manufactured home communities, has stepped up to the plate with an offer to purchase the trouble community.

I’ve reached a tentative agreement with East End’s owner to buy the property, repair its malfunctioning sewer system, and manage it along with my other parks, [sic]” said Turner.

As the Daily Business News has covered, the city of Manassas was set to purchase the community for $1.86 million from a trust controlled by Helen Loretta Clarke, who residents claim neglected the community’s sewage system to the point that unless residents took action themselves, sewage came up into their yards.

For Turner, who admits he’s been watching “the circus” from the sidelines, sees purchasing the community as a huge plus.

I look at this as an investment for my retirement days. I’m hoping to clean it up and make it a much nicer place to live,” said Turner.

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James Turner. Credit: VTW Law firm.

After one of the residents of my Alexandria properties urged me to look into it, I decided to call the seller and see what’s going on.”

Even with the positive momentum, Turner will still have some hurdles.

First, the city will need to step back from its plan to purchase the property, and that would be contingent on whether or not the buyer would be able to afford to repair the sewer system, which could cost up to $1.5 million on top of the sale price.

Turner says this isn’t an issue.

I wouldn’t invest a million dollars in this unless I knew for sure I could do it,” said Turner.

I’m ready to buy this and get started, and start spending money with the anticipation that the city will let me buy it.”

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Credit: NBC 4.

Turner has also offered to bring in workers to begin the initial clean up on the property as an act of good faith, to demonstrate he’s serious.

The other challenge is around the city’s discussions with Catholics for Housing, a Dumfries, Virginia-based nonprofit.

Jonathan Francis, the pro bono attorney representing the community’s residents, says the non-profit had managed to earn the trust of his clients by supporting several key provisions in the negotiations.

The charity was willing to offer long-term leases so residents could feel secure that a sudden sale of the property wouldn’t force them out of their homes. Keeping rents at a reasonable rate is another important consideration, since many residents only pay about $400 per month right now and couldn’t afford to pay much more,” said Francis.

Without similar assurances from Turner, I don’t know how comfortable people on the park [sic] might be even staying on the property.”

For Vice Mayor Marc Aveni, a leading opposition voice on the city purchasing the community, says that while he hasn’t spoken with Turner directly, if he’s sincere, it’s good to have him involved.

If he cleans up the park [sic] and gives the residents an affordable place to stay that’s a win to me,” said Aveni.

From my standpoint, having multiple people interested is probably a good thing. We get to pick and choose.”

Also in play is a pending litigation, in which 49 of the 58 families living at East End are pursuing “tenant’s assertions” against Clarke and her representatives.

Tenant’s assertions are a legal action that lets the residents pay their rent into an escrow account controlled by the Prince William County District Court while a judge evaluates whether the community’s owners are responsible for its poor condition.

Francis says his clients feel comfortable ending that case if Catholics for Housing purchases the community, but he’s not sure what they may do if Turner buys it instead.

Part of any deal is looking to get some sort of agreement from the residents that they won’t be pursuing action against the seller, and there hasn’t been a meeting between the residents and Mr. Turner to discuss that yet,” said Francis.

Helen Sorto, who has been working with East End residents to stay in their homes, agrees with Francis.

Some are already preparing to leave, particularly because Turner could raise rents to the point where the park’s low-income residents simply can’t afford to stay,” says Sorto.

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A home at East End Mobile Home Park. Credit: Inside Nova.

With the improvements to the quality of the community, Turner says that rents may go up by $100 or $150 per month, but points out the property’s rate would remain below what he charges in his other communities, or rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city.

I expect that the repairs I’m planning will improve the value of the trailers [sic] on the park [sic], making it a better investment for residents,” said Turner.

This is an investment on my part, so there may be some rental increases, and the tenants are aware of it. It has to work for them and has to work for me, and I think we’ve had a meeting of the minds.”

For more on the saga at the East End Mobile Home Park, click here. ##

 

(Image credits are as shown above, and when provided by third parties, are shared under fair use guidelines.)

 

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RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

Drama, Take Three – MHC Infighting Over Potential Sale

April 20th, 2017 Comments off
MHCWeighsAcquisitionOfferUnderStrangeCircumstancescreditZillowBriarcrestEstates-postedtothedailybusinessnewsmhpronewsmhlivingnews

A home in Briarcrest Estates. Credit: Zillow.

In the ongoing saga of Laconia, New Hampshire – based Briarcrest Estates, both the tempers, and stakes, are higher than ever.

According to the Laconia Daily Sun, Briarcrest co-op board members Joe McCarthy, Don Vachon and John Drouin have resigned from the six-member board, after they came under fire over a proposal to sell the community to Hometown America Corporation.

A special meeting has been called for April 24 to fill the vacancies, and another meeting has been set for May 20 to consider selling the community.

As the Daily Business News covered here, the Briarcrest story dates back to July 2013, when community owners Mark and Ruth Mooney tentatively agreed to sell the Briarcrest Estates to Hometown America for $10 million. In compliance with state law, the terms of the transaction were disclosed to the tenants, who had 60 days to make a counteroffer by presenting a purchase-and-sales agreement. The law requires the community owner to bargain in good faith with the residents or their organization.

Residents of Briarcrest Estates then formed The Lakemont Cooperative Inc. and, with assistance from ROC-USA and the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, matched the offer from Hometown America Corporation.

After initial resistance, Mark and Ruth Mooney agreed to sell the 183 acre, 241 home site community to the cooperative, which has owned and managed it since April 2014.

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Credit: Google.

Fast forward to January 2017, when things changed. That change came in the form of a offer to buy Briarcrest Estates.

It was from Hometown America.

It’s an unsolicited offer, period. A fire-from-the hip” proposal, said Vachon at the time.

The Hometown America deal reportedly included retiring the outstanding balances on a $8 million loan from TD Bank and $2 million loan from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund as well as covering the prepayment penalty of $873,000 on the bank loan, closing costs and real estate transfer taxes associated with the transaction.

For some residents, the timing was “convenient.”

Although the board has claimed the offer was not solicited, the letter from Hometown America Corporation outlining its terms begins ‘per our discussions,’ indicating that board members have been communicating with Hometown America for some time,” said Katherine Carlson, who also was among the first officers of the cooperative.

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Credit: Briarcrest Estates.

Residents in the community say that it has become a neighbor-versus-neighbor battle, with one faction wanting to sell the community, and the other wanting it to remain a cooperative.

It’s just been ridiculous,” said McCarthy’s wife, Carrie, who said her husband and the other board members were unfairly targeted for suggesting cooperative members consider an unsolicited purchase offer.

There are a small number of people in this park [sic] who are so toxic,” said McCarthy.

All they are trying to do is stop the vote. It’s not all wonderful here in the co-op. People fight and argue. It’s like something you’d see on TV.”

Resident Louise Rosand, who is in favor of remaining a co-op, says that the ability to avoid rent hikes and keep control of the community are both critical. She also feels that the three board members who resigned were not completely honest about the situation with Hometown America.

They went behind our backs,” Rosand said. “There is no financial reason to sell. We are in good standing. We have extra money to put away. The bank loves us. The park has been running smoothly.

It’s kind of like a group against group. Your neighbor could be for or against. I live in a little section where there are four of us who are not for the sale, but if you go down the street you may find somebody who is for the sale. But you don’t go in your backyard and yell. You wave at everybody who goes by.”

 

ROC USA Commentary

An unrelated ROC USA community. Credit: ROC USA.

The ROC-NH program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund has helped convert nearly all of that state’s resident-owned communities, now numbering over a hundred. ROC-NH Director Tara Reardon told MHProNews it often takes time for a new cooperative to develop leaders and grow into what will become that community’s personality.

We’re confident that, if the process is transparent, the residents at Briarcrest will make the right decision for their neighbors’ and their own futures,” said Reardon.

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Mike Bullard. Credit: Linkedin.

ROC Members are empowered to make decisions for themselves and their communities. Democracy, as they say, isn’t always pretty, I think we can agree in the wake of last year’s elections, that’s a fact,” said Mike Bullard, ROC USA Communications and Marketing Manager, in an email to MHProNews.

But making a tough decision, or even a bad decision is better than having no choice at all.” ##

 

(Image credits are as shown above, and when provided by third parties, are shared under fair use guidelines.)

 

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RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

Update: Manufacturers Must Turn Over Documents in FEMA Case

March 23rd, 2017 Comments off
UpdateManufacturersMustTurnOverDocumentsinFEMACasecreditTheAdvocate-postedtothedailybusinessnewsmhpronewsmhlivingnews

FEMA Units in Leo’s Manufactured Home Community, where Everett Wilson died. Credit: The Advocate.

In a follow up to a story the Daily Business News originally covered last month, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (HOGR), led by chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), has ordered two home manufacturers to turn over documents related to the Louisiana floods, as it investigates the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to the disaster.

According to The Advocate, Chaffetz said that the two companies — Lexington Homes Inc. and Scotbilt Homes, Inc. — provided many of the FEMA units after the floods, and had especially high rates of maintenance complaints.

A key component in the investigation is the death of 84-year-old Baton Rouge resident Everett Wilson, who died in his temporary FEMA home on October 25th from overheating.

When authorities inspected the (unit), they discovered temperatures over 137.5 degrees Fahrenheit with the air conditioning and heating control unit reading 50 degrees Fahrenheit,” wrote Chaffetz in his February letter.

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Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Official Photo.

In addition to the death of Wilson, the letter also points out other issues, including FEMA sending a housing unit to a dead person’s address, delivery of a housing unit to the wrong address, and temporary housing units that were unused and cost as much as $340,000.

The cap for assistance under federal law is $33,000.

FEMA failed to fix many of the problems discussed at a September, 2016, HOGR hearing, such as the agency’s poor communication and failure to properly distribute assistance funds to survivors,” wrote Chaffetz.

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Garret Graves. Credit: Google.

Congressman Garret Graves has also been an outspoken critic of the FEMA responses to the floods, citing slow and sloppy deployment of FEMA units.

It’s amazing the number of calls we still get every day — seven months after the flood — from people still in need of a trailer [sic] or looking for answers about why it’s taking so long for theirs to get delivered or wired,” said Graves.

Many of these people have homes that have literally been condemned, but FEMA won’t or ‘can’t’ authorize a trailer [sic] it’s ridiculous. The soup to nuts cost of the (manufactured housing unit) operation is exorbitant, and taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth.

Dale Gilliland, General Manager of ScotBilt, defended the company in its actions.

Ours were not connected to Wilson’s death, and we had not heard about any complaints until we received Rep. Chaffetz’s letter Tuesday,” said Gilliland.

We contacted FEMA and we were told the agency hasn’t yet fully investigated the complaints or possible defects with mobile homes [sic].”

In an interesting twist, Gilliland said that FEMA told him “the thought that ScotBilt’s quality is sub-par compared to other vendors is (an) unfair and possibly inaccurate assumption at this point.

FEMA would neither confirm nor deny this quote.

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A family looks at the remains of their home after the Louisiana floods. Credit: NOLA.

FEMA is complying with the oversight committee’s document requests,” said FEMA Deputy Director Eileen Lainez.

When asked if FEMA has made any changes to its programs in light of the floods, Lainez provided this response:

FEMA is always evaluating the effectiveness of our programs and taking steps to continuously improve coordination, to ensure that survivors affected by disasters are returned to homes that are safe, secure, and functional, as soon as possible,” said Lainez.

For Graves, disappointment in FEMA is still front and center.

These inefficiencies are more than frustrating — they’re wrong. They add insult to injury and re-victimize honest people whose lives have already been flipped upside down,” said Graves.

For more on FEMA, including former director Craig Fugate’s comments on what the next FEMA leader will need, click here. ##

 

(Image credits are as shown above.)

 

rcwilliams-writer75x75manufacturedhousingindustrymhpronews

RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.