Mobile home residents, new owner meet for first time with 'combative' results

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KCRG) - Residents from a mobile home park in North Liberty met with new ownership in a town hall meeting Thursday night- two months after residents found out their rent was going up by hundreds of dollars.

Homeowners in Golfview Mobile Home Court were invited to attend a "Townhall" (sic) organized by Havenpark, the new owners of the mobile home park.

In a letter sent to residents, Havenpark requested residents register online that they were attending the meeting by May 21. For those that did not register, they could not attend. It explicitly stated media and attorneys were also not allowed into the meeting.

People that live in the neighborhood said the letters were postmarked May 17 out of Cedar Rapids, and some told TV9 they did not receive the letter until the deadline had passed.

The meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour inside the South Slope Community Center, left residents with many remaining, unanswered questions. Speaking after the meeting, residents said they felt representatives from Havenpark were "combative," and left dissatisfied.

For many residents, Golfview Mobile Home Court has been a decades long home with front and backyards full of memories. Candi Evans, who has lived at the mobile home park for more than 20 years, said she is concerned she may lose the memories of her husband, at the place they made them.

She was concerned with Havenpark representatives telling North Liberty city leaders it was their goal to "lift the level of living" in the area.

"Upgrade the living- what does that mean?" Evans asked. "We're happy here. We don't need them to upgrade our living. Don't need that."

For nearly two months, she and her neighbors have been waiting for answers- she believes the best way to do that, is for Havenpark leadership to meet face-to-face with the board of residents they have organized.

"The best scenario would be they would sit down and they would be understanding," Evans said. "Will it happen remains to be seen."

"It's sad that in this day and age we can't communicate," said Don Lund, who has lived at the mobile home park for nearly 30 years. "And they can't see us as a person. All they see us is as a commodity. Buy, sell, and make money."

Thursday night was the closest they have come to communication with Havenpark.

Residents from the park, other community members, and local political representatives showed up to voice their support. Among those included city council member RaQuisha Harrington, Rod Sullivan and Royceann Porter from the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, and Democrat State Senator Zach Wahls of Johnson County.

After a meeting residents found ineffective, it was welcomed support from a group that stood holding signs outside of South Slope Community Center.

"To afford this kind of increase we're going to have to think about every penny of spending," said Cindy Wade, a decades-long resident of the mobile home park. "Some of our neighbors and friends are simply not that lucky."

Residents said after the meeting Havenpark is offering a $70 credit off rent until April 2020. Then it would go up to the full price. In some cases, marking a more than 60-percent increase on rent. However, some residents were concerned about the truthfulness of the offer, since it was not provided to them in writing.

Sen. Wahls said while support for mobile home park residents was clear in the Iowa Senate, a bill did not pass the house and therefore did not reach the Governor's desk. But he provided a vow for the next session.

"We are going to be back next year, we are going to finish this fight, we are going to strengthen the laws in our state," Sen. Wahls said. "Because just because something it legal doesn't make things right, that means we have to change the laws."