Eat the Poor, Boise Edition

To wring every last penny from people who have to count their pennies.

In a nation with so many problems, being informed about issues from on high can be jarring. What’s not so harsh is finding practical solutions performed by people living with the pain. But, unfortunately, we have to descend to the ground for that.

A case in point gives us from the New York Times (the “on high” bit) and the people in the trenches doing the hard but noble work (in this case, City Council in Boise, Idaho).

First, the big story via The Times

South of Boise, Golden, Colorado, is experiencing a kind of Rah-Rah boom in real estate, making princes out of realtors and developers. Around these clusters of Californian transplants are Coloradans trying to hold on and the trailer parks that used to provide affordable housing.

In 2022, however, if crazy mad money is around, national corporations will supersede the previous mom-and-pop nature of mobile home parks. Residents who are used to the stigma of trailer park living now worry about big corporations’ new wave of owners. They are buying up the land but now require improvements to the structures the tenant owns or rents.

The sun has set for affordable housing in the Mountain States.

The Mobile Home Boot Camp” provides homespun wisdom in webinars on the best way to maximize rents based on a cynical but undeniable reality. Local governments no longer approve mobile home park zoning, so it’s nearly impossible

to up stakes and move the mobile home to a new site. As a result, people are stuck with high rents to serve as the business model, with no choice but to pay more (or hit a friend’s sofa)

That there is money to be made is not a new story. Clayton Capital is one of Good Old Warren Buffett’s more consistently valuable holdings). They’re in the business of building manufactured homes. But that’s not where the money is. Like inkjet printers and their toners, the profit lies elsewhere, in this case, financing the homes’ purchase. Because a manufactured home is considered personal property, the interest on the loan is similar to a car (sometimes over 10%).

Living in a mobile home park can sometimes seem like a desperate last resort to coddled Americans. It’s not. Like all housing, some are good, and some aren’t. But they provide stability, a sense of community, and more room to live.

Second, the happier story via the Boise local media

Escaping north to Boise, we found situations similar to Golden. Boise has the top premium prices of all US cities. That means how much people will throw at a property above the asking price.

Like Golden, Colorado, the Sage Mobile Home Community owners were all in for cashing out. In the Mountain states, land values have exploded. The owners were the Betts Family Trust, a hard-to-pin-down private operating foundation. The actual properties on top of that land are undoubtedly modest, and the cost of renting the ground is about $250 a month, utilities excluded.

In Boise, it’s hard to be poor. A single-family household getting $15 an hour can’t compete for housing, much less afford food. The sales tax applies to groceries, and it’s 6%. There is a real risk it could go higher if “property tax reform” advocates managed to get a Prop 13 Style property tax reform that leaves businesses, renters, and strivers out in the cold. The leader of the Idaho House doesn’t see a problem with increasing the sales tax because “it’s a tax you can avoid if you choose to.” That’s the ticket; stop buying food.

What to do for the Sage Community? Boise City Council took a bold step and bought the mobile home park for $3.25 million! Since the median home price in the Boise/Ada County area is over $500,000, here’s an excellent solution for overstretched long-time renters. Unfortunately, one Council member voted against the measure, citing concerns that more property off the tax rolls will hurt Boise taxpayers. That’s a bold statement, considering the relentless expansions of state and local subsidies to favored entities.

Outside the nation’s largest cities, there is an enormous need for affordable housing, but there is a lack of land for working people to live near their jobs and schools. The Boise plan should inspire other communities to find solutions closer to the ideal of the Community Land Trust. Gathering land parcels and using them for all city residents to rent the land (as today) is a fair, equitable, and American solution.

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