To wring every last penny from people who have to count their pennies

In a nation with so many problems, it can be jarring to be informed about issues from ‘on high.’ What’s not so harsh is finding practical solutions performed by people living with the pain. But, unfortunately, we have to come down to earth and  to be grounded for that.

A case in point comes to us from the New York Times (the ‘on high’ bit) and the people in the trenches doing the hard but noble work (in this case, City Council in Boise, Idaho).

First, the big story via the New York Times

South of Boise, the city of Boulder of Golden, Colorado is experiencing a kind of Rah-Rah boom in real estate, making princes out of realtors and developers. Around these clusters of Californian transplants are Coloradans trying to hold on and the trailer parks that used to provide affordable housing.

In 2022 however, if crazy mad money is around, national corporations will supersede the previous mom-and-pop nature of mobile home parks. Residents who are used to the stigma of trailer park living now have to worry about big corporations’ new wave of owners. They are buying up the land, but they also now require improvements to the structures the tenant owns or rents.

The sun has set for affordable housing in the Mountain States

The sun has set for affordable housing in the Mountain States

The Mobile Home Boot Camp” provides homespun wisdom in webinars on the best way to maximize rents based on a cynical but undeniable reality. Local governments no longer approve mobile home park zoning, so it’s nearly impossible to pull up stakes and move the mobile home to a new site. As a result,  people are stuck with high rents which serve as the prevailing business model, and with no choice but to pay more (or hit a friend’s sofa).

That there is money to be made is not a new story. Clayton Capital is one of Good Old Warren Buffett’s more consistently valuable holdings. They’re in the business of building manufactured homes. But that’s not where the money is. Like inkjet printers and their toners, the profit lies elsewhere; in this case, in financing the homes’ purchase. Because a manufactured home is considered personal property, the interest on the loan is similar to a car (sometimes over 10%).

Living in a mobile home park can sometimes seem like a desperate last resort to we coddled Americans. It’s not. Like all housing, some are good and some aren’t. But they provide stability, a sense of community, and simply more room to live.

Second, the happier story via the Boise local media

Escaping north to Boise, we find situations similar to Golden. Boise has the top premium prices of all US cities. Long story short, this means how much money people are willing to throw at a property above the asking price.

Like Golden, Colorado, the Sage Mobile Home Community owners were all in for cashing out. In the Mountain states, land values have exploded. The owners were the Betts Family Trust, a hard-to-pin-down private operating foundation. The actual properties sitting on top of that land are undoubtedly modest, and the cost of renting the ground is about $250 a month, utilities excluded. There are  24 lots on the site.

In Boise, it’s hard to be poor. A single-family household getting $15 an hour can’t compete for housing, much less afford food. The sales tax applies to groceries, and it’s 6%. There is a real risk it could go higher if “property tax reform” advocates manage to get a Prop 13 Style property tax reform that leaves businesses, renters, and strivers out in the cold. The leader of the House of the Idaho State Legislature doesn’t see a problem with increasing the sales tax because “it’s a tax you can avoid if you choose to.” That’s the ticket: stop buying food!

What to do for the Sage Community? Boise City Council took a bold step and bought the whole mobile home park for $3.25 million! Since the median home price in the Boise/Ada County area is over $500,000, here’s an excellent solution for overstretched long-time renters. Unfortunately, one Council member voted against the measure, citing concerns that more property off the tax rolls will hurt Boise taxpayers. That’s a bold statement, considering the relentless expansions of state and local subsidies to favored entities.

Outside of the nation’s largest cities, there is an enormous need for affordable housing but a lack of land for working people to live near their jobs and schools. The Boise plan should inspire other communities to find solutions closer to the ideal of the Community Land Trust. Gathering land parcels and using them for all city residents to rent the land (as today) is a fair, equitable, and American solution.

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