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M aribeth Sheedy got a letter from her new landlord the day after Christmas last year.

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The mother of two sat in a folding chair in the garage attached to her double-wide manufactured, or mobile, home shushing her year-old Pomeranian mix Coco. But since the financial crisis, and as an aging generation of mom-and-pop park owners cashes out, a new breed of investors bent on raising rents to increase returns has bought up a growing share of the market. In New York, according to the state, there are now nearly 70, trailers across more than 1, parks.

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Yet demand exceeds supply. But increasingly, residents are challenging their corporate owners. After their Christmas shock, Sheedy and her neighbor Ron Barone, a retired body-shop owner, started knocking on doors around their home park, inviting residents to a meeting at the American Legion Hall in town.

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Sunrise retreated after they heard from the residents, the Village Board of Trustees, and a local legislator. But Sheedy and her neighbors insist that even incremental increases are untenable. Three-quarters, like year-old disabled veteran Gary Karaskiewicz, are on fixed income.

Renting mobile homes: an investment strategy

The Manufactured Housing Institutea national trade organization, praises private investment in mobile home parks. Frank Rolfe, a multi-millionaire investor and cofounder of Mobile Home Park Universitydefends the model. For years before the sale, says former Akron manager Mark Kloss, the Dolls kept track of everyone who was too frail to prep their trailer for winter and checked their pipes—a tricky task typically left to residents—for a nominal fee. The residents also say that the ro were not adequately plowed or salted last winter. The new Akron tenant association is made up primarily of younger residents, many of whom feel protective toward their elderly and disabled neighbors.

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Pat Damon is an year-old widow on Social Security who will celebrate her ten-year anniversary in the park next month. Bright-eyed with gray curls, she sends annual birthday cards to every congregant at Calvary Baptist Church in Akron, where her late husband was a preacher. I lived a lot of years before I had a home of my own, and I know that this is something that brought a lot of joy to my husband.

Sheedy says that she managed to live at the Akron Manufactured Home Community for 12 years without ever really getting to know her neighbors. The mood has changed.

Is a mobile home considered real estate?

She remembers bolting out of bed that morning, anxious that her elderly neighbors would be stranded without a convenient bathroom. The solution was parked in her driveway: the family camper van. The party lasted all afternoon, eventually morphing into a sing-along jam session. Association members have learned to play to their strengths. Barone, with his baritone and wide smile, likes to walk the neighborhood personally inviting people to meetings and calming their fears. Demands include the right to a lease renewal for all renters, and protections against untenable rent hikes in parks and apartments.

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When she returned, she told her neighbors how exciting it was to meet apartment dwellers from New York City, Long Island and Rochester facing the same challenges. Sheedy called up a resident there, a year-old retired waitress named Stacey White. The two women swapped stories about their winter without plowing or salting, their frustrating managers and threatened rent increases. Funding is contingent on year lease renewals and annual rent increase caps.

Manufactured housing is all we do.

Among other things, it requires park owners to give their tenants notice of any third-party offer on the property, and a chance to match it. Currently, this is only required if a purchaser plans to redevelop the land within five years. And in Eastern Long Island, Democratic Assemblyman Fred Thiele has sponsored legislation for half a decade that would empower park residents to challenge rent increases that exceed the consumer price index.

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On December 1, Sheedy and more than 70 of her neighbors plan to escalate their efforts by staging a rent strike—one of the first in the country to challenge major rent hikes by a multi-state investment firm. Borden helped Sheedy seek strike advice from tenant groups in New York City and Rochester, who are also participating in the campaign for statewide tenant protections.

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They plan to pay their rent into an escrow in anticipation of a court fight. One night earlier this fall, dozens of Akron residents gathered in the basement of the local Baptist church, around folding tables sprinkled with Starburst candies.

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After circulating a petition condemning the proposed December rent increase, Sheedy introduced Pete Nagy, an organizer with the affordable housing nonprofit New York Communities for Change. She adopted her grandson ten years ago, after her daughter died in a car crash.

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She, too, is sick of losing. This story was supported by the journalism nonprofit the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. The original version of this story misstated the name of the mobile home community.

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Karaskiewicz was 68 years old at the time of publication, not at letters time. Affordable Housing Is Disappearing. An exterior of a home in the Akron Manufactured Home Community. The entrance to the Akron Manufactured Home Community.

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