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Countdown Clock-Remaining time for Davie Moratorium on Mobile Home Park Conversions

 

Your input is needed now for constructive action. Want to help? Contact us at webmasterse@bellsouth.net.

 

The Problem...property rights versus displacement of human rights

Up to 25 percent or more of the population of the Town of Davie lives in mobile homes. That is up to 23,000 individuals, including families with young children. As property values have increased over the past several years, mobile home lot owners have sought to redevelop their properties to make room for more expensive projects, but in order to do so, they must evict mobile home residents. Some of these residents are elderly, others are handicapped, and many are not able to afford housing other than their current arrangements. The few who can otherwise afford to move are unable to do so due to high property taxes, oppressive windstorm and homeowner insurance costs and the cost of housing in South Florida, where the average price of a house in Davie is almost $400,000. For most, wages have not increased enough to allow people to catch up with home value appreciation. Thousands simply have no where to go in South Florida once they are told to leave their mobile home parks. Even more complicated is the fact that moving a mobile home can cost up to $10,000. For many, their mobile homes are too old to be moved properly.

Losing residents who help comprise part of the economic back bone of our community is unacceptable, yet this population loss is a clear and present danger. According to the Miami Herald on February 25, 2007, a recent Florida International University (FIU) study states Broward County will need 90,000 additional homes by the year 2014. With that overwhelming need, the threat of mobile home park elimination will only exponentially increase the problem. Even if redeveloped mobile home parks are made into apartments, the new development eliminates what is already an affordable housing solution...existing mobile homes.

The Town of Davie, on Wednesday, February 21, 2007, voted to place a moratorium to freeze mobile home park redevelopment applications. The reprieve is scheduled to last one year, and may be extended for another 6 months. This was responsible, and welcome, action. However, according to the Sun-Sentinel, "Applications that have already been submitted would still be processed." A 12-member Mobile Home Task Force has been formed to study affordable housing alternatives for those mobile home residents who face displacement. The task force will work with FIU and Carras Consulting. Their efforts are designed to find a way to avoid creation of "economic refugees," which is a very real threat for this segment of Davie's population. The problem is not unique to Davie, but faces mobile home communities throughout the State of Florida. Mobile home displacement is a local, state and federal issue of extreme urgency. As the days pass, extreme stress is visited upon those who face the loss of their home, and a place to live. For many, they may be forced to give up their jobs in order to find a home elsewhere.

Park owners claim their property rights are being violated. Residents characterize this as a human rights issue. Pressure for answers is mounting, and the clock is ticking. There are 31 mobile home communities in the Town, which house approximately 7,400 units. More people live in mobile homes in Davie than in any other municipality in Broward County. The median rent for a mobile home in Davie is $400 a month; the median rent in the Town is $1,342. We must not allow the months to pass without a determined and thorough look at all options to alleviate this problem. If solutions are not in place within the time allotted, it may be too late to avoid the resulting damage caused by irreparable displacement. The resulting economic impact of eliminating mobile homes will be severe. The human consequences are hard to imagine, but at a minimum, they will be extraordinarily harsh. This threatened reality can be avoided, however, with creative thinking, and concerted efforts from all aspects of society.

"Imagine the loss of skilled workers and its impact on Broward County because the affordable housing they currently occupy, in the form of mobile homes, is eliminated."

Some tools for solving the problem

The following ideas, used in concert with each other, are suggested by this author to help tackle this daunting problem:

  • Seek serious infusion of ideas- The Mobile Home Task Force should seek input from County, State and Federal Officials to work with local leaders in finding solutions. No crisis of this proportion can be fixed without cooperation within all levels of government.
  • Traditional finance institutional involvement- Banks and lending institutions need to be actively involved in the problem solving process to provide low interest loans to those who face displacement, or to help finance ways to allow residents to purchase their communities.
  • Corporate responsibility- Serious and meaningful corporate involvement is key...this is not just a governmental problem, it is an economic problem which needs the innovation of corporate ingenuity and action. Programs modeled after Starbuck's campaign to donate proceeds of certain books to worthy social causes should be considered. Corporate partnership with local government designed to help people stay in their homes makes sound business sense.
  • Explore employer-assisted housing- Employers of mobile home dwellers who are threatened with displacement from their community should explore innovative compensation mechanisms to assist employees retain their homes.  As reported in the Sun-Sentinel on March 26, 2007, Baptist Health South Florida is working on a housing program to attract and keep employees. Without the employees who are forced to move because there is no alternative to mobile home living, business suffers. Just like the University of Miami and the Keys Federal Credit Union, large employers need to add to the overall solution of displacement and meet the affordable housing crisis. Employers can consider loans to help purchase interests in mobile home parks, rental assistance and other measures. Such assistance can be the difference between an employee staying in a mobile home (and keeping their job) or being forced out due to lack of funds, if the park their home is located in is to be purchased by the residents.
  • Tax incentives- Our governmental leaders, from Town Hall to the steps of Congress need to explore tax relief options for mobile home owners who are caught in the displacement war. We need to explore the possibility of tax credits for those who donate to stop mobile home displacement.
  • State and county bond initiatives- The State of Florida and Broward County should consider issuance of bonds to assist mobile homeowners purchase their parks. As local media reports migration away from Broward County to other parts of Florida and other states, such a loss of residents is an economic threat to the entirety of the social and economic infrastructure of South Florida. These conditions require proactive funding techniques. The State of Ohio recently started a bond program to issue taxable municipal bonds to help citizens fend off foreclosures. If Ohio can step up to help its homeowners avert home loss, surely Florida and Broward County can rise to the challenge of helping to preserve affordable housing in the form of mobile homes.
  • Local bond referendum- Town Council members need to explore assistance by creating a bond referendum to help finance solutions. We cannot lose thousands of residents within our community without doing everything possible.
  • Affordable Housing Trust Fund- Davie should look into it's own affordable housing trust fund, fashioned after the program recently enacted by the City of Hollywood, which seeks voluntary contributions by developers. The monies would be used to study long-term solutions to mobile home displacement and provide emergency relief to affected residents under carefully designed criteria.
  • Civic involvement and Socially Responsible Investing- Community fund raisers need to be held to support our neighbors. Every condominium and homeowner association needs to get involved in protecting against displacement. The Sun-Sentinel reported on March 25, 2007, that the wealthiest property taxpayers pay taxes on less than one half of their property tax value. This group of affluent property owners should be targeted to volunteer contributions to help those in other economic brackets keep their homes. Such contributions could be tax deductible or entitle property tax owners to designated tax credits set up to encourage such an effort. Individuals and business entities should be encouraged to participate in voluntary funding programs to help solve the mobile home displacement crisis. Community investing should be encouraged based upon independently audited programs designed to sustain affordable housing.
  • Microcredit concepts- Studies need to be conducted on the use of microcredit techniques to solve this problem. Many elderly and disabled mobile home residents are unable to work in regular jobs, yet can offer their experience and talents to the community as a way to repay financial aid. These individuals offer an untapped resource to the community, but may lose their homes. Creative microcredit lending techniques in exchange for public service hours by the otherwise unemployable who currently live in mobile homes is a way to stabilize threatened housing and, in turn, infuse positive paybacks into the community. What is microcredit? See Wikipedia article here. If we put our minds to creating workable pubic service microcredit solutions derived from existing, but successful models, many can be kept in their homes while addressing the economic concerns of current mobile home park land owners. 
  • Taxpayer options- Drivers who renew their vehicle registrations, need to have a voluntary option to check off on their payment forms designating a small amount of money of their payments to be devoted to funding affordable housing solutions or for the protection of displaced mobile home residents. Options already exist on IRS forms for Presidential elections and on vehicle registration forms...if we can add affordable housing as a category, this "re-direction by option" tool will provide vital annual funding to help tackle some of the problems. For more on this proposal, click here.
  • License tag program- Design a new Florida license plate designed to fund affordable housing studies and solutions.
  • A new game- Create a Florida lottery scratch off card game devoted to funding protection against mobile home displacement. Distribution of proceeds raised would be based on strict eligibility criteria and by winners of a affordable housing lottery.
  • South Florida Mobile Home Foundation- Consideration should be given to establishing a non-profit corporation to manage donated funds for equitable distribution to mobile home owners. The sole goal of the foundation would be to finance ways for individuals to keep their homes. Private charitable contribution programs should be encouraged and promoted by this entity.
  • South Florida Mobile Home Housing Cooperative- Residents in mobile home parks can set up a housing co-operative which purchases the real estate from mobile home park owners who wish to sell. Each resident would be a shareholder with the right to occupy their mobile homes, subject to an occupancy agreement and rules for each park. Shareholders would not own the real estate, but have an ownership interest in the co-operative, while still owning or leasing their individual homes. Shares owned by individuals could be sold at will to new, or other residents. For more on co-operative housing, see Wikipedia article here.
  • Legislative and Executive Branch action- Existing state laws need to be used and strengthened to maximize the ability of problem solvers tackle this problem. Innovative strategies to use programs offered by the Florida Department of Community Affairs and other agencies in the overall solution of this crisis are sorely needed. See Florida Department of Community Affairs Division of Community Planning web article on Affordable Housing and relevant links. The reimbursement powers of the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Corporation need to be raised to reflect current market place reality. See the statute that defines the powers of the Corporation here. View statute that defines remedies for land use changes and the current role of the Corporation here. (Note: Other laws, rules and cases are applicable. These links are only for information purposes, and not legal advice). The Florida Legislature is currently considering changing some of these laws.

"Thousands of our neighbors are at risk. We cannot allow displacement of an important sector of our population by failing to study every potential solution to the problem as quickly as possible."

One solution for fusing the tools above into concrete action

Here is another aspect of the solution. As economically painful as it is, as difficult as it seems, the Town of Davie should consider purchasing the land from owners who wish to redevelop their properties but will displace residents. They can do so by contract or via eminent domain process. In either case, fair market value can be paid for the land, thus protecting the property owner's rights. Mobile home residents can pay rent to the Town. Davie would have a property management company or companies manage the land, and the corporate entities would report to Davie's Housing and Community Development Department. As the land appreciates in value, the Town has made an investment in its economic future. Davie would refrain from selling or redevelopment of the affected properties for 20-25 years, thus giving residents more than an adequate deadline to find affordable housing. At the end of the ownership period, the Town could sell the properties, if it desired.

The purchase of mobile home properties could be financed by a combination of a bond referendum approved by the voters, private investment, individual and corporate donations and voluntary re-direction of tax proceeds aimed at solving mobile home displacement. State and Federal tax dollars and incentives could provide another piece of the funding puzzle. The public purpose is to protect Davie's citizens, and the Town gets real property investments for the future. All this equals proactive leadership, solid investment strategy and good government policy.

If you have any questions or comments about these proposals and ideas, please e-mail the author at webmasterse@bellsouth.net. Your input is much appreciated.

Mitch Chester.

This commentary is updated periodically. Please check back for additional comments.

Edit dates: 2/24/07; 3/12/07; 3/24/07; 3/27/07.


Feedback On Mobile Home Displacement

Will all parties voluntarily sit at the table...now...to find a suitable solution?

Davie Resident Ellis Traub has suggested the process of "facilitation," whereby efforts are made to facilitate communication between mobile park owners, developers and residents. If all sides are willing to sit down and constructively discuss solutions, Mr. Traub suggests such an effort might help reduce misunderstandings and quell unfounded rumors about mobile home park conversion issues. The effort to facilitate a solution by voluntary discussions may help to head off litigation and expedite formulation of worthwhile solutions. This process would involve voluntary participation by all sides, and can only work if each faction involved in the process exercises good faith in trying to resolve outstanding issues.

Editor's Note: I agree. There is no reason why all sides in this dispute cannot sit down and try to reach some solutions without waiting a year or more. Pressure is mounting on all parties, including the residents facing the conversion process. The sooner we try to sit down and discuss the issues with the appropriate players, the more progress we will make.

If you have feedback about the Mobile Home Displacement issue, please let us know. Send your E-mail to us at webmasterse@bellsouth.net.

 

Hear NPR.org radio discussion about mobile home displacement, aired April 28, 2006. Entitled "New Development Target, Trailer Parks," the story examines the nationwide trend of developing mobile home parks. The segment discusses how those about to be displaced have formulated some answers...but in some cases, the solutions are few or non-existent. Click picture to hear story.      Note: NPR.org does not endorse this web site.

 

Countdown Clock-Remaining Time for Davie Moratorium on Mobile Home Park Conversions

  

Your input is needed now for constructive action. Want to help? Contact us at webmasterse@bellsouth.net.

For more on mobile home displacement, please see our continuing discussion at www.SharedEmergency.com.

 

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11/07/2008 Edition: (News content updated daily)

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