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Southeast : Bell Buys Mobile Home Parks to Keep Rent Low

Until last week, Helen Gundlah would have been hard-pressed to find a pleasant word for her landlord. She and fellow tenants of the Bell Mobile Home Park have faced numerous rent increases in recent years, and another 10% raise was set for Jan. 1.

“We’d get these terrible rent raises whether you can afford them or not,” said Gundlah, who has lived at the park for 36 years.

But those days of 10% increases are over for some lucky souls, now that the city of Bell has purchased the mobile home park and two others in the city. Under the agreement, rent at the parks is guaranteed to rise no more than 3% a year--and perhaps much less--as part of a city plan to aid seniors and poor residents.

“We’re not profit-motivated,” said city administrator Robert Rizzo, who closed the deal without spending any city funds except a $1.75-million investment from the city’s redevelopment agency that was earmarked for low-income housing. The rest of the $13-million purchase was covered by bonds that will be repaid by tenants from their rent checks.

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The purchase affects more than 350 mobile home owners at three sites, including the Del Rio and Mizpah mobile home parks. Two other parks in the city were considered for purchase, but Rizzo said their owners were not willing to sell and their tenants had expressed no concern about rent increases.

The deal, though similar to recent mobile home park purchases by the cities of Westminster and La Habra, may be the first time in the country that the host city has not had to co-sign for the loan. An insurance policy exempts the city from having to repay the bond in case rents fall short, Rizzo said.


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