Friday, June 21, 2024

These New Housing Laws Will Take Effect Next Month

Project: HOMES’ Bermuda Estates community in Chester. Mobile home residents face few protections in the face of a booming housing market that can make trailer park land attractive to developers. (Project: HOMES)

RICHMOND — Manufactured homes, mobile homes, trailers — whatever they’re referred to as, this type of housing has offered tenants an affordable option to become homeowners.

But they haven’t offered as much stability. That’s where Virginia lawmakers have passed some laws to help neighbors around the state have a little more peace of mind.

For example, should a mobile home park be sold for redevelopment, a new law will require some financial assistance to help residents relocate and another new law strengthens protections for residents’ leases.

The mobile-home-specific proposals are among a suite of housing laws that will take effect next month — ranging from rental protections, extensions of pilot programs and the establishment of workgroups to study potential future laws.

‘A misnomer to call them mobile’

From loopholes in renter protections to the ease of displacement by the selling of parks, mobile home owners don’t always have the long-term residency in an area that being a typical homeowner may yield. Many states typically don’t have laws specifically for mobile home residents but Virginia has had some targeted legislation in recent years.

It’s the several mobile home parks in his district that Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, had in mind when he carried a bill to require park owners to provide $5,000 to cover relocation costs when they sell their park for redevelopment.

In 2024, it can cost between $5,000 and $15,000 to move a mobile home depending on the size and distance traveled.

It can be even costlier for longer-standing homes that may be more fragile to move. Krizek said some residents in his district have told him their estimates are closer to the $10,000 and $12,000 range.

“It’s really a misnomer to call them mobile,” he said.

Tram Nguyen with New Virginia Majority also noted the challenges of moving mobile homes as well. Additionally, cost of living is higher in Northern Virginia where several existing mobile home parks represent dwindling affordable housing options.

“I feel like this General Assembly was a bit of a mixed bag,” Nguyen said.

Krizek can attest to that. His bill originally included other protections such as extending the notice period for potential sales and granted local governments a first right of refusal to potentially purchase parks. Between moving through committees and chambers and earning Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s signature, the bill lost other components but retained the relocation expenses.

While Krizek would rather preserve existing mobile home parks, he hopes that his bill can help people when that’s not possible due to park sales.

That’s where he points to a $5 million dollar increase in the state budget toward the Manufactured Home Revolving Loan Fund — which helps nonprofit organizations and resident associations purchase parks.

His wasn’t the only bill specifically catered to mobile home residents.

Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, and Del. Karrie Delaney, D-Fairfax, made Improvements to the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act that increased protections such as granting a “right of redemption” to tenants who may face eviction for unpaid rent. The forthcoming law clarifies the reasons a person can be evicted, to include unpaid rent, and outlines the process both parties can follow.

“If you own the home, but you rent the dirt, that is where (this law) applies to you,” said Daniel Rezai, a lawyer with the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

Another component of the bill concerns rights for lease renewals. The law gives the same protections that renters of apartments or other homes have.

“We made sure that we’re providing the same kind of protections to tenants in these communities as we do to other residential rental properties,” Hashmi said.

For example, tenants won’t have to worry about automatic renewals of leases if they don’t want them — resulting in potentially breaking a lease and the charges associated with that — should they inform park owners that they wish to leave.

Other new laws

A handful of other housing laws will take effect next month covering other types of residencies or situations residents can find themselves in.

House Bill 73 — This will require courts to automatically expunge eviction records for cases that have been dismissed after 30 days.

House Bill 764 — This bill will give domestic violence or sexual abuse victims the right to terminate a lease agreement early should they have a permanent protective order and need to move residences for their safety.

House Bill 86 — This bill mandates that during eviction cases, landlords notify tenants of any increases to any money that is requested.

House Bill 477 and Senate Bill 50 – These bills extend Virginia’s eviction diversion pilot program for another year.

House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 538 — These increase the maximum fine that localities can impose on repeated violations of the Uniform Statewide Building Code.

House Bill 1203 — This bill increases tax credit amounts available to landlords who rent to Housing Choice Voucher holders. There is also an earmark for use in rural regions of Virginia.

House Bill 478 and Senate Bill 49 — These allow localities to set up Community Revitalization Funds, which can be used to prevent neighborhood deterioration, such as revamping blighted structures for continued use.

Senate Bill 489 — This bill establishes a workgroup that can analyze the possibility and options for creating a Virginia Residential Development Infrastructure fund.

House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 195 — These bills establish an advisory group to explore changes to Virginia’s Uniform Statewide Building Code. The specific goal concerns permitting the use of single-exit stairways in multi-family residential buildings that are under six stories tall.

Future goals

Though several bills were able to pass during this year’s legislative session and are soon to become law, housing advocates and lawmakers stress there is still more work to do.

For the Virginia Housing Alliance, some key priorities failed to gain traction this year and they hope to see the proposals resurface with better luck next year.

For example, Del. Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield, and Hashmi plan to try again on their proposal dubbed “5,000 Families.” Despite their proposal, it did not make it into the final budget.

“5000 Families was really trying to create a pool of funds so that if a family with school-aged kids came into a housing crisis during the school year they can access those funds to keep their housing stable and stay in the same school,” Coyner explained.

She explained that she hopes to continue drawing the connections between how stable housing can affect children’s ability to excel in school.

“This is not just a housing intervention, but this is a really important education intervention,” added Isabel McLain, VHA’s policy director.

While an earlier version of Krizek’s mobile home bill had included a first right-of-refusal component when it comes to mobile home parks up for sale, a bill from Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, D-Alexandria, would have allowed localities to apply this concept to preserve subsidized housing.

The failed legislation would have required property owners to give localities a chance to match offers to buy certain multifamily rental buildings that might be aging out of affordable housing designations.

Typically, these sorts of properties were developed with the use of low-income housing tax credits, which expire after a set number of years. (Another bill from Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, would have also allowed all Virginia localities to take advantage of these credits if they wished to do so when approving developments).

“We see it as a way to extend our public investments in affordable housing,” McLain said. “We’ve put a lot of state and federal taxpayer dollars into affordable housing and we don’t want those investments to just come to an end.”

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Samantha Willis for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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