We have nothing to fear but fear itself” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

By Ralph Weber, Former Antelope Valley Vice President of the Antelope Valley

 

During one interview in his Oscar-nominated documentary “Sicko”, Michael Moore asks an old scholarly gentleman, why Europeans have managed to get excellent health care for all of its people …what did they do that Americans are not doing to achieve universal health care?

 

The gentleman’s answer was startling, mainly because it was so obviously true…something we all would rather not admit. He said, quote: “The difference between us here on the continent and your people in the United States, is that over here, the government fears us. In the Untied States the people fear the government!”

 

He said that Americans fear their government so they just sit back and hope for the best. His implication seemed to be that we here in America will not organize enough strength in numbers to protest against bad decisions by the government or revolt against the giant corporatocracy that has ran rough-shod over the American middle class citizen

 

Are we really that afraid? Has fear of just about everything, from almost any food you eat to synthetic threats from foreign nations actually being able to combat our military might and “destroy or freedom”, shoved us shivering into a corner hiding until the fearful threat leaves? Apparently it does. Right now, we are a nation of people all looking out for themselves, struggling to survive. Everyman for himself, retreating from joining organized groups that can demand it rights and justice from its elected government!

 

And there are forces out there to help keep us in our little cowering corners. It is not enough that greedy corporations endlessly lobby for their anti-employee agendas, they are now exporting insidious methods for preventing workers from attaining fundamental freedoms. It’s a $4 million industry called Union Busting.

When a company is faced with the a group who want to form a Union , the corporations turn to firms packed with lawyers, who, for price, will provide them with all the dirty tricks, within a hair of the law, they need to divide and disperse the group, therefore eliminating the “majority” in the Union organizing group and making the formation of a Union an impossibility.

 

It’s what all greedy corporations and political parties know as the one guaranteed method for opposing protests against injustices: DIVIDE AND CONQUER! And it works. It is being practiced every day in mobile home parks across the country. It works because, most mobile home owners, paying rent for land on which the home they own sits, are afraid of the Park Owners. When these mobile home owners are abused by management, forced to sit in squalor in a filthy park community, or receive notices of exorbitant rent increases, they retreat to a corner and hope somehow they will get through it. Some refuse to go to their corner immediately. They quickly turn to organizations like CoMO-CAL and want immediate advice of what to do. The seek answers in the Mobilehome Residency Law, Civil Code Provisions 798-799. They may even form a group to start legal action against the park owner. Much of the time, these in park organizations lose because they run out of money for legal fees and they can’t withstand the time it takes to get their grievances before a jury.

 

What is really needed is some way to make park owners fear the people who pay them rents that make their investment of owning a mobile home park worthwhile. What is needed is one example of an organized effort that has the backbone to carry their protests to such an extreme that forces the park owner to comply with the protestors demands or lose their investment entirely! It’s bold, daring move, many will say is improbable because it will not get support of everyone; too many will want to negotiate on the park owners’ terms.

But, while it is improbable, it is not impossible. Consider this scenario.

Shady Glen, a 25-27 year old mobile home park with 100 spaces occupied by retired Seniors living in double and triple wide manufactured homes. They all live on fixed incomes averaging $1,000 per month. Their average rent ( which started at about $130 per month 20 years or so ago) is now $400 per month (which includes gas heat and trash pickup). There is no rent control in their area. Most of these homeowners have been here for more than 12 years. Their average age is 72. Most of the homes are occupied by two Seniors. Shady Glen has been maintained well over the years with some major improvements added through minimal pass throughs added to the rents.

Then the park owner dies and Shady Glen is sold to a greedy speculator who has graduated from the Mobilehome University and relishes the thought of quick handsome profits he has been told he can make by increasing rents, eliminating some park maintenance, and forcing some renters to leave by intimidating tactics. He has been told he is in complete control and has the backing and financial resources of the WMA (Western Manufactured Housing Association).

 

So the new park owner sets his greedy plan in motion. He notifies everyone that the rents will be increased to a minimum of $650 per month across the board. He reduces his maintenance force, and begins picking on some residents with minor violations hoping they will decide to move on and either abandon the mobilehome ( which he can then acquire) or buy it from the resident at a ridiculously low price.

 

Almost all the residents will not be able to bear the new rent increase. With an average income of about $1,000 per month, and rent at the $400 per month level, they had about $600 per month to such necessities as food, clothing, utilities, health care and medicines. That’s about $150 per week! With inflation running at about 14%, Shady Glen people are just getting by. With the rent increase going to $650 per month, spend able income for Shady Glen Seniors is reduced to $350 per month or a little more than $80 per week!! The rent increase makes living in Shady Glen unaffordable.

 

The Seniors are backed against the wall. They have everything to lose; not to mention the disruption in their lives and the lives of their children they may be forced to live with. Past case histories similar to this Shady Glen experience have shown that the residents who could not afford the rent left, adding to the profits of the park owner, who either bought the old mobilehome cheap, or replaced it with a new mobilehome owner who could afford the exorbitant rent.

 

But Shady Glen people decided to try the impossible. More than half of them had the courage to realize that they were losing everything, so they had nothing to lose by making it hard for the park owner to beat them. 100 Shady Glen Seniors sent a notice to the new owner that they were not willing to pay the new rent of

$650 per month; they would pay a reasonable increase closer to the CPI annual increase of about 4%, $416 per month. Their notice said that if the owner was not willing to negotiate a new lower rent increase, he could proceed with eviction notices on all 100 tenants!!

 

The ball moved to the owners court. He faced not only a loss of rent from 100 spaces. 60 days (the time allowed by law to evict the tenant) but other costs such as serving official papers and moving out mobile homes the home owners cannot sell. Not to mention the adverse publicity the eviction of 100 Seniors living on

fixed income would do to attracting new mobile home tenants. In addition, he faced the improbability of ever getting a financial judgment against these Seniors because they genuinely did not have income that could be attached by writ of law.

End of Scenario.

 

I wonder what the end of this story would be if it really happened. What this hypothetical episode shows is that regardless of where mobile home owners turn to for help they can only get somewhere by helping themselves. If your park is facing serious problems with park owners or park management, CoMO-CAL or other mobile home owner advocacy groups can only give you their support

and advice…..support and advice they get from dues paying members of their group. CoMO-CAL works for all mobile home owners in the never ending battle against greedy, ruthless, despicable park owners who prey on mobile home owners who just want to live comfortably in affordable housing. The Shady Glen Scenario also indicates that as a group fighting park owner abuses your commitment to winning the battle must be firm and may come at some sacrifices. The Shady Glen story is improbable, but it is not impossible.

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