Editorial: Mobile homes squeezed out

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Residents of a mobile-home community on the edge of Thetis Lake park are facing eviction, more victims of the land squeeze that is making affordable housing harder to find.


What will happen to these residents as they are pushed out, in some cases losing the value of their homes, and are forced to find new places to live?


The Thetis Lake Campground and Trailer Park, which has been run by the same family for 40 years, has 17 mobile homes. Owner Eric Gieringer is in discussions with Limona Group, which wants to build 45 single-family homes and 14 townhouses on the five-hectare property.


Residents have been told that if the deal goes through, they will have to move out in the fall. Some will be able to move their homes, if they can find sites, but others, whose structures are too old or restricted by additions, will lose them.


The campground owner, who wants to retire, has the right to sell the land, and in the current housing climate, it makes good business sense to get top dollar. Nevertheless, the effects are life-altering for the residents, some of whom have low incomes or are disabled.


The owner of the Thetis site has offered $10,000 in compensation for each home, although some residents think they should get the assessed value.


Langford has a land-use bylaw that requires owners whose homes can’t be moved to be compensated with the assessed value of their homes. But in View Royal, where the campground is situated, no such rule exists.


The campground owner is being required to pay the cost of removing the homes, said Mayor David Screech.


For those who can’t move their homes, the compensation will not be enough to start over again.


As resident Don Dobbie says: “My nest egg is gone. I will go from being a mortgage-free homeowner to a renter in a hard market, with a cat and dog.” He was offered $89,000 for his home last year, but now won’t get even the assessed value of $17,000, when he leaves the place he has extensively renovated.


Groups that represent owners of these homes prefer to call them manufactured homes because most these days are not really “mobile.” They definitely don’t like the terms “trailer” or “trailer park,” even though the latter is part of the Thetis Lake facility’s name.


They say they live in “manufactured-home communities,” and their communities are important to them beyond just a place to put a house.


The Active Manufactured Home Owners Association has been trying to convince the province to give homeowners some kind of protection when developers come knocking. So far, it has had no success.


It says B.C. law requires only that homeowners be paid one year’s site rental if they are forced to move.


The province has about 1,000 manufactured-home communities, according to the Manufactured Home Owners Alliance of B.C., and it expects most of them will continue to operate. But in places like Victoria, where demand for land is high, residents must be looking over their shoulders.


While it is hard to argue with the economics of turning the land into higher-density, higher-priced developments, those developments make the shortage of affordable housing even worse.

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