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Weber County official probes fix to mobile home park issue as rent hike takes effect

By Tim Vandenack standard-Examiner - | Jun 3, 2021

RIVERDALE — A Weber County housing official is looking into options to assist residents of a mobile home park who could be forced out if the property owner moves ahead with plans to build apartments on the land.

“We’re working to come up with a solution to help keep the land affordable and keep the residents in their homes, if possible,” said Andi Beadles, head of the Weber Housing Authority. However, it’s still not clear what sort of help, if any, housing authority officials can offer, she said.

Residents of Lesley’s Mobile Home Park at 671 W. 4400 South in Riverdale, meanwhile, face steep hikes in rent and utility costs effective Tuesday, from $553 a month to $787.50. “We’re having a rough time with that,” said Jason Williams, who lives in the park and has been spearheading efforts against the possible redevelopment plans. One tenant, he said, tapped into retirement funds to help cover the increase while others are seeking assistance via a rent relief program geared to those adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

An entity called H&H 39th Street owns the mobile home park and a company rep went to the Riverdale City Council in April seeking a rezone of the property to make way for an apartment complex on the land. Around 55 mobile home units sit on the property, measuring 4.6 acres, and the tenants and their dwellings would have to make way for such a development to proceed.

The City Council ultimately voted no on the rezone request, arguing the plans didn’t comply with the city’s general plan because the concentration of housing, the apartments, would be too dense. They broached the notion of changing the general plan, theoretically making the sort of development H&H seeks allowable, but took no action to that end. Neither city nor H&H officials responded to Standard-Examiner queries on Thursday seeking an update on where the proposal stands.

The issue is still front-and-center on the minds of Lesley’s Mobile Home Park residents, though, concerned about their long-term housing prospects.

Williams noted the money to be earned by developing more housing like apartments given population growth and strong demand for new housing. Though the Riverdale general plan, which guides development in the city, doesn’t currently allow for the sort of development H&H seeks, he suspects city officials could be prodded to change the document in light of pressures to develop housing. “It’s just inevitable,” Williams said.

Given the rent increase, he and other tenants are also feeling the heat. Williams said another adjacent mobile home park, Riverside Village, charges residents rent and fees of around $555 a month and offers better amenities. “They have a playground and a basketball court. We’re not anything close to them,” he said.

He asked Lesley’s reps about the big rent and fee jump that went into effect on Tuesday and they said market rate studies justified the increase. Mobile home park reps have also cited some $50,000 in unpaid back rent and fees owed by Lesley’s tenants, according to Williams.

The owners of the mobile home park “are not a non-profit organization nor are they a community housing resource,” reads a response from a Lesley’s rep that Williams received after asking about the rent and fee hikes. “They are private investors that need a return on their investment. The decision to increase rents was made after completing multiple market studies comparing rents at Lesley’s Mobile Home Park to many other parks in the surrounding areas. In actuality, rents at Lesleys have been 40% below market for the past several years.”

As Williams sees it, though, the mobile home park operators are responsible for some of the issues it faces because they allow potentially problematic tenants to live there. He filed a complaint about the rent increase last month with the Utah Labor Commission entity that handles housing discrimination issues, to no avail.

The operators of Lesley’s “want problems. They want to say, ‘Oh, it’s a problem,'” Williams argues, because then they will be able to muster support in plans to redevelop the land.

At the April 20 meeting when the City Council rejected the rezone request, H&H rep Matthew Steiner said crime is an issue inside the park and that the operation is “not working out.”

Williams, meantime, noted sewer issues with two tenants. Weber-Morgan Health Department spokesperson Lori Buttars said the department has been called to the mobile home park and the issues are getting attention. “We’re working with them to address the issues,” she said.

Beadles, from the Weber Housing Authority, said she got involved in the issue due to the agency’s mission of helping assure that the public has housing. If the Lesley’s Mobile Home Park tenants are displaced, she said, “chances of finding additional, affordable housing will be very difficult.”

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