Residents feel trapped at manufactured home park

Residents of Twin Cedars tell City Council they can’t afford to stay, but they can’t leave

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Many residents of a 55-plus manufactured home park approached City Council at the Jan. 10 meeting to ask for help as they find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

Residents of Twin Cedars filled the meeting hall to share a common concern: rising rent costs for a plot of land upon which their home sits. The high rent, they said, also makes it difficult to sell their home.

“We’re at their mercy,” resident Judy Annin said.

In July 2023, after landlords had hiked up rent as much as 14.6%, Gov. Tina Kotek signed Senate Bill 611 which caps rent increases at 10% per year. This happened shortly after Legacy Communities, LLC purchased Twin Cedars.

Resident Nancy McMackin shared that her rent at Twin Cedars had gone up 9.9% in December 2022. In July 2023, she received a 90-day notice that rent would go up 14.6% in December 2023. It was a lawful move that allowed the company to raise the cost by that much before SB 611 took effect. That means her rent went up more than 24% in one year, and it was legal.

A resident at Twin Cedars expresses frustration about rising costs, saying, “It’s all about the money.”

McMackin explained SB 611 does not differentiate between landlords of actual dwellings and manufactured home parks. She asked the council for “active support” in trying to separate the two different types of properties.

“A dwelling is not being offered for that rent money; just the dirt,” she said. “We pay property taxes. We own our own homes, are responsible for our own repairs, improvements, roofs – but who can afford them once these guys get a hold of us?”

Annin also emphasized that the owners of Twin Cedars have to maintain the roads and “a few other things,” but residents bear the cost to maintain the actual dwellings. McMackin clarified that in addition to the plot of land, the rent covers the cost of “questionable” well water, garbage and sewer.

According to McMackin, the residents were told rent increases were necessary to keep up with market rates, essentially indicating rent for a plot of dirt should reflect rent for an apartment or single-family home, and the increased rates are for improvements.

“There are no improvements,” McMackin said. “There are no improvements in Twin Cedars.”

“Our landlord has demonstrated he will continue to raise the rent on our lots at the highest rate the law will allow, right to the penny,” Annin said.

Some of those who spoke to council said that, as a senior on a fixed income, moving to Twin Cedars was an affordable way to own a home. Manufactured homes, Annin said, have been an affordable way for seniors on fixed incomes to own a home.

Standing room only is evident as people crowd the Santiam Travel Station during the Jan. 10 City Council meeting.

But as rent increases are expected to go up 10% every year, the approximate 3% increase in social security payments cannot sustain that cost. What’s more, some residents indicated it is difficult – if not impossible – to sell their home.

McMackin shared that new residents will be charged $1,100 in rent per month in addition to the purchase of the manufactured home. Another resident, Debra Koester, shared that a 94-year-old resident lost her husband last year and needs to move to assisted living, but has been unable to sell her home despite multiple inquiries of interest.

“Once they find out how much it costs for the rent, they back out,” Koester said.

“The value depreciation of my home and increased lot fee does not make it attractive to a potential buyer,” resident Lynn Cole said. “I’m feeling trapped in my situation and wonder what will happen if I cannot keep up with the lot fee increase.”

While speakers expressed consternation about the cost of rent, some did emphasize their understanding and support for business owners to make a profit.

A 95-year-old resident asks a question about her situation at Twin Cedars Manufactured Home Park.

“I also believe that we have an obligation to protect our seniors and the vulnerable,” Annin said. “We’re looking for a balance between their right to make a good profit on their investments and our right to reasonable treatment and remain in our homes.”

In addition to the cost of rent, Annin said residents are also experiencing poor communication, safety issues, unreasonable restrictions on use of common areas, and fear of retaliation if they speak up.

“It has to change,” McMackin said. “It’s predatory. How do you need that money if you’re not doing anything with that money?”

Annin offered some ideas for how the council could help: create rent control, communicate with political leaders, or help sponsor a bill for rent caps for manufactured home parks. Councilors asked questions for clarification and said they would research the subject to see how they could help.

In other business, the council:

♦ Heard from Michael Couch, executive director of Crossroads Communities, who asked them to consider adopting Oregon statute OR 307.541, which exempts affordable-housing nonprofits from property taxes. Crossroads purchased Cascade Cottages on Milton Street last year to be used as affordable housing and anticipates buying more property for such purposes, he said. Taxes for that property were more than $15,000.

♦ Heard an update from Lebanon Downtown Association (see our story “Downtown Association back on track”) and approved the release of funds for the first two quarters of FY 23/24. The City’s approved budget includes $30,000 for LDA operations, but the council required payments this year be distributed on a quarterly basis ($7,500) when LDA proves it is in good standing with all state and federal agencies, provides a timely budget and financial statements, and reports on its activities.

♦ Awarded the Seventh Street Reconstruction Project to Willamette Valley Excavating for its $3,059,934 bid.

♦ Passed a resolution to condemn approximately 1,100 square feet of undevelopable property at a corner of Stoltz Hill and Airport roads for a signal pole, ADA ramps and road widening to accommodate a protected left turn lane. The improvements were part of a condition with the Applegate Landing development, but property owners failed to come to a “reasonable” agreement with the City.

♦ Discussed the possibility of leasing a billboard at the north end of town.

♦ Interim City Manager Ron Whitlatch said Albany Eastern Railroad is interested in leasing the Santiam Travel Station, which they own. The City Council holds its meetings in the building, so they will have to find another location.

♦ Talked about a need to hold work sessions to set budget goals, update the 2040 Vision. Whitlatch said it would be helpful to use a third-party moderator to efficiently set budgetary goals that are in line with residents of the wards.