Thursday, June 17, 2021

GottDAYYUM..., Investment Firms Buying Up Trailer Parks Too!!!

newyorker |   One day in October, 2016, Carrie Presley was visiting her boyfriend, Ken Mills, when she received a phone call from a neighbor informing her that someone had just been shot outside her home. Presley lived with her seventeen-year-old daughter, Cheyenne, in a two-story clapboard house on Jackson Street, in the northern part of Dubuque, Iowa. The neighborhood was notorious for its street crime, and Presley, who was, as she put it, in “the housing community”—she received Section 8 housing vouchers—had grown used to the shootings and break-ins that punctuated life there. After talking to Cheyenne, who was in tears, Presley rode with Mills back to her house, where police were sweeping the perimeter of the property. As Presley recalled, Mills looked at her and said, “We’re not doing this anymore.” It was decided that Presley and Cheyenne would move in with Mills and his son Austin.

Mills, a long-haul truck driver and the father of four grown children, lived in a three-bedroom single-wide in the Table Mound Mobile Home Park, a quiet community of more than four hundred mobile homes arranged in a tidy grid. The homes in the park are not as portable as its name implies; they’ve been placed on foundations, and their hitches have been removed. From afar, they look a little like shipping containers sitting next to small rectangular lawns. In Iowa, park owners can choose whether to accept Section 8 vouchers—which are distributed to 5.2 million Americans—and many, including the owner of Table Mound, do not, citing the administrative burden. By moving, Presley would lose her government subsidy, and she and Cheyenne would have less space, but, as Presley told me, “I was sacrificing material goods for a sense of safety.” She and Cheyenne held a garage sale, and watched as their neighbors walked away with the kitchen table, a dresser, armoires, and most of their clothes.

In the U.S., approximately twenty million people—many of them senior citizens, veterans, and people with disabilities—live in mobile homes, which are also known as manufactured housing. Esther Sullivan, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver, and the author of the book “Manufactured Insecurity: Mobile Home Parks and Americans’ Tenuous Right to Place,” told me that mobile-home parks now compose one of the largest sources of nonsubsidized low-income housing in the country. “How important are they to our national housing stock? Unbelievably important,” Sullivan said. “At a time when we’ve cut federal support for affordable housing, manufactured housing has risen to fill that gap.” According to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there isn’t a single American state in which a person working full time for minimum wage can afford a one-bedroom apartment at the fair-market rent. Demand for subsidized housing far exceeds supply, and in many parts of the country mobile-home parks offer the most affordable private-market options.

In the past decade, as income inequality has risen, sophisticated investors have turned to mobile-home parks as a growing market. They see the parks as reliable sources of passive income—assets that generate steady returns and require little effort to maintain. Several of the world’s largest investment-services firms, such as the Blackstone Group, Apollo Global Management, and Stockbridge Capital Group, or the funds that they manage, have spent billions of dollars to buy mobile-home communities from independent owners. (A Blackstone spokesperson said, “We take great pride in operating our communities at the highest standard,” adding that Blackstone offers “leading hardship programs to support residents through challenging times.”) Some of these firms are eligible for subsidized loans, through the government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2013, the Carlyle Group, a private-equity firm that’s now worth two hundred and forty-six billion dollars, began buying mobile-home parks, first in Florida and later in California, focussing on areas where technology companies had pushed up the cost of living. In 2016, Brookfield Asset Management, a Toronto-based real-estate investment conglomerate, acquired a hundred and thirty-five communities in thirteen states.

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