In March, residents at the Midwest County Estates in Waukee woke up to the news their rent could see a hike of around 70 percent.
The park had just been purchased by Havenpark Capital, a Utah-based company that has bought a number of similar mobile estates throughout Iowa.
A resident of the park for 10 years, Matt Chapman who has lobbied for mobile housing action for three years, said the future is uncertain.
“It's a big question mark. Where do we go? What do we do?” Chapman told the Dallas County News.
On Saturday, Aug. 10, California senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-CA) walked through the park with Chapman to give an answer should she win the 2020 election.
“Part of what I'm going to do for families and individuals that are paying over 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities,” the senator said. “They'll get a tax credit. But we also have to give a credit for affordable housing.”
This matches up with her Rent Relief Act introduced in her home state in 2018. Additionally, residents of government-subsidized housing can claim a refundable tax credit for their rent. She wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register in April that attributed 21 million Americans paying 30 percent or more of their income on rent and utilities, proposing a tax credit to help renters with an affordable home.
There is skepticism raised by the Los Angeles Times that such a bill would hurt larger metro areas that already have an increase in homelessness. Landlords would also have more incentive to raise prices with an overwhelming figure qualifying for assistance.
The effect of a 2020 bill won't be nearly quick enough as more flyers giving residents notice are appearing every month, Chapman said.
A majority of residents in the 300-lot park are either on a fixed income, support a family as a single parent, or retired, leaving few options beyond staying at their current residence.
Harris and Chapman both said that puts everyone's wallets on the line, needing to sacrifice grocery and medical money for rent. A 2014 study by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau estimates mobile home residents have one-quarter of the median net worth among other households.
While walking down the road to Chapman's house, Harris spent time talking with other residents to get a pulse on the situation. She spoke with a woman who said that her “grandmother can't move” to other housing under present circumstances in the area.
Pam Root, a retired park resident added that living with social security has become difficult with the onset of the new rent even after cutting corners elsewhere since her husband has medical expenses to consider.
Chapman said he hopes to see more legislation help with rent control and will continue to lobby to that effect.
Harris also spoke to the effect of helping mental health. While not entirely connected to the housing topic at hand, Chapman told a story of helping another resident who suffered a psychological disorder and lost his home to a fire, left without another place to live.
“We have failed to deal with the health of the body above the neck,” Harris told Chapman.
After Harris left for her next campaign event in West Des Moines, Chapman told the Dallas County News he was happy with what the senator had to say. But he will continue fighting for more attention on the state and local level, hoping to get more candidates out more discussion in the future about affordable housing and enacting bills to control rent hikes.
Harris will continue her trip in Iowa with visits to Des Moines, Lacona, and Mount Pleasant on Sunday. She will be in Burlington and Davenport for public events on Monday.
She is currently fourth in the democratic polls at 8.3 percent as of Aug. 10.