Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Traverse City Record-Eagle. July 31, 2022.

Editorial: Weak state laws on mobile homes need fixed

Michigan has more than 1,200 mobile home parks, with at least a dozen of them in the Traverse City area.

Amid the array of housing choices in the region, mobile home parks traditionally have provided some of the most affordable options for individuals, especially retirees on low or fixed incomes.

Some locations in the Traverse City area advertise rates starting at $300 a month for senior citizens.

Given the high demand for housing in a desirable location, these communities are the ideal choice for many residents. But that may not be the case for much longer if the state Legislature doesn’t do something to ensure it.

Simply put, the residents who own manufactured homes and rent the land where their homes sit are, literally, sitting ducks.

On July 19, Bridge Michigan reported accounts on the eastern side of the state where private equity firms have purchased mobile home parks and jacked up the rents. The mobile home owners had three choices: Find the money to pay the higher rent; move their mobile homes to other locations (which would cost thousands of dollars they don’t have); or abandon their mobile homes altogether.

Grand Traverse County Equalization Director James Baker said he’s aware of situations where this has occurred in the Grand Rapids area, where the mobile home would have to be abandoned by the owner.

The firm would then take possession of the home and rent it to someone else.

These situations may not be happening on a large scale here – at least not yet. But, given the weak laws in Michigan regarding mobile home parks — laws that haven’t been updated since 1987 — we believe it’s only a matter of time.

Consider the fact that the need for affordable housing continues unabated. Sales of mobile homes reflect that demand. Mobile home owners are clearly vulnerable.

And, without state legislation to remove the economic incentives for private equity firms to come in and snap up mobile home parks and jack up the rates, these residents will continue to be vulnerable.

Last year, state Rep. John Cherry, D-Flint, co-sponsored legislation that proposed altering leasing and licensing requirements for the property owners, and addressed issues regarding titles to abandoned homes in mobile home parks, requiring compensation to the mobile home owners for the value of their property.

The proposed legislation would require yearlong leases or rental agreements, so landlords couldn’t suddenly make changes, and the creation of a database of mobile home park owners with their licensing and contact information.

But these bills, which passed the state House with strong bipartisan support, are now stalled in the state Senate. According to Bridge Michigan, they are awaiting action by the Michigan Senate Regulatory Reform Committee.

And the prognosis for this proposed legislation is not good, since the Michigan Manufactured Housing Association, which represents industry leaders in the state, pulled its support.

Perhaps, in the short term, the best solution would be this: Approve a straightforward bill to simply protect existing homeowners from sudden increases in rent and fees after their mobile home park is sold to a new owner.

Blair Township Assessor Wendy Witkop said there is certainly precedence for this approach in Michigan.

“We have protection on taxable value,” Witkop pointed out. “The state made an effort to stop taxing you out of your home.”

If action at the state level is taken to protect these existing homeowners from high rents that would cause them to lose their homes, “you’re talking about the same thing,” she said.

That sounds like a sensible approach.

So keep the solution simple, senators, and get it done without further delay.

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The Mining Journal. July 30, 2022.

Editorial: Changed state law will improve disability parking opportunities

We’ve all seen it, the blue sign with a stick-figure drawing of a wheelchair with the word “handicapped” beneath it.

It’s a design that hasn’t changed since 1969.

And while the people who originally designed those signs meant no disrespect, as the times change, so should the verbiage.

The Michigan Secretary of State has since changed the name of the placards and plates it provides residents to “disability parking.”

Under state law, people who are legally blind, have difficulty walking or require a cane, walker, wheelchair or other assistive device are eligible for some type of disability parking.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Public Acts 182 and 183 of 2022 of 2022 will change the signs to better reflect people who use wheelchairs or need mobility assistance.

Under the legislation, introduced in the Michigan House by Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, the word “reserved” will take the place of “handicapped” and the new design will show a new active person in a wheelchair.

LaFave worked closely with Disability Network, Michigan to create the legislation.

According to its website, the group advocates for “inclusion and accessibility throughout Michigan.”

Alex Gossage, vice chair of Disability Network/Michigan Board of Directors said; “We are pleased the Legislature and the governor agreed that it was time for an update.”

Businesses won’t need to replace their signs right away, but the new design will need to be used when replacing an existing sign or placing a new one.

The changes are fitting, considering the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was celebrated this past week.

The federal law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities.

The new logo has already been adopted by New York and Connecticut.

Inclusivity is a laudable goal, and, in our opinion that updating the signs is a step in the right direction.

We applaud Rep. LaFave for bringing this issue to light and the state legislature for acting on it.

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