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Manufactured home owner goes to DC for a cause

November 1, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

North Fort Myers resident Marjorie Mathers joined a post-hurricane march in Washington, demanding "robust aid" for those affected by the recent storms.

The March for a Just Recovery, hosted by the Center for Popular Democracy and held held Oct. 18 in the capitol, brought "together organizations across the country to demand that Congress and the Trump Administration fund a robust aid package for Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, immediate cancellation of Puerto Rico's debt, and the creation of local jobs with living wages that fuel a green energy economy," according to a release on the event.

A resident of Buccaneer Estates, Mathers's particular emphasis was to call for aid for those whose manufactured homes were severely damaged or destroyed but who still must pay lot rents.

After Irma rolled through the area, about a dozen in her community lost their homes, Mathers said, adding Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS), owner of Buccaneer Estates and one of the nation's largest corporate owner of manufactured home communities, didn't provide relief.

Mathers took the issue to Washington to march with those also affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria from the U.S. Capitol to the Trump International Hotel.

Mathers is part of a group called MHAction, a national non-profit that works with manufactured homeowners in land lease communities, such as the one in which Mathers lives, where they own the home but lease the land.

"We don't have any control over anything, and as a 55+ community, most of us are on Social Security. Our rent goes up all the time, but the Social Security doesn't," said Mathers. "We have a lot of older people meeting their obligations, taking their medicine every other day and not buying groceries so they can pay the rent."

FEMA has provided those without insurance some relief, but there are still others who have fallen through the cracks, Mathers said.

Hurricane damage is currently estimated at $294 billion ($180 billion in Texas, $95 billion in Puerto Rico, and $19 billion in Florida) but the White House has only asked Congress for $29 billion.

Kevin Borden, of MHAction, said that money is meant as a marker to get things in motion. But those in manufactured homes have a lack of recovery strategies, unlike the owners, who can better access those funds.

"The community owners are going to have more political access than Marjorie Mathers. Are they going to line up their companies with the state of Florida to get access to these recovery dollars, yet it won't be clear if there's transparency on how they will use it," Borden said.

Many homeowners involved with MHAction feel the increase of corporate ownership has resulted in what they maintain is an unsustainable business model based on escalating lot fees and decreasing investments in community infrastructure, creating an economic trap for homeowners.

Mathers said she would like municipalities or small private companies to take over ownership of manufactured home communities and use it them for affordable housing for lower income people.

ELS could not be reached for comment.



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