Terry Hill Jr. (in cap) and his family at Massie Mobile Home Park. Photo by Sarah Rupp.

Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, is the patron of Senate Bill 922, which provides a state income tax incentive for mobile home park owners to sell to nonprofits or entities owned by tenants.

To qualify, the entity purchasing the mobile home park must be “owned by at least 25 percent of the residents of such manufactured home park or (ii) an organization exempt from taxation under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, provided that such sale terms require the guaranteed maintenance of the property as a manufactured home park for a period of at least 30 years following the sale.”

“The main purpose behind the bill is to provide an incentive for mobile park owners who are thinking about selling their property that they consider selling first to nonprofit housing providers,” Hashmi told Cardinal News. “And the goal, of course, is to be able to keep the existing tenants on that mobile home park stable, and to continue to provide affordable housing for the communities that live in those parks. And the incentive for the owners who are looking to sell their properties is to be able to deduct any gains that they make from the sale from their tax income. So it should be a win-win for most people.”

At the summer meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, “this was an important topic around the broader conversation for affordable housing,” she said. “And Pew [Charitable Trust] was doing some extensive work and research around the issue of mobile home parks or manufactured housing. And so this is really a part of a national conversation.”

Hashmi said she has also been working with the Virginia Poverty Law Center on the topic.

In 2020, project: HOMES purchased the Bermuda Estates manufactured housing community in Chesterfield County. “I’m happy in the new district that I will be running in, which is Senate District 15, we have Bermuda Estates, and project:HOMES, which is a nonprofit organization, has made that purchase and is working to renovate and create a very solid foundation for the folks that live in that area. So that is good news. But we have a lot of communities around Chesterfield, and in the larger Central Virginia area, that are going to be facing situations of sales. And it’s important that we have opportunities for the stabilization of the property rather than converting it into apartment communities that will be out of the reach of the families that are already living in those areas.”

Hashmi said she had also been following the case of the Massie trailer park in Montgomery County where a company linked to the Alden Global Capital hedge fund bought the park and told some of the tenants to leave or face unexpected charges. (See previous story: ‘A hedge fund-linked company bought a mobile home park. Many residents were told to pay hundreds more or be evicted.’) That firm has bought at least 80 mobile home parks across the country and other companies have purchased others, then raised the rates. “Mobile home parks are turning out to be cash cows, and investors are going into them,” Salem attorney Ross Hart told Cardinal News. “They’re treating them like an investment instead of housing for people who need it.”

Ghazala said she expected SB 922 to come before the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations today (Tuesday) at 5 p.m. 

“We may have to make some adjustments. I’m willing and always happy to listen to feedback from my colleagues as well as stakeholders and see if we need to make any edits or modifications to the bill. I know my companion bill in the House [HB 1578] did not pass out of committee. And because it did not come out of the House Committee, I am happy to consider modifications to this bill, just so we get it in a posture where hopefully it will pass out of the Senate, but also be successful in the House.

“If it passes the Senate floor, then it will be sent to the House. But I want to get it in position where we have a broader agreement. So we will see what the recommendations are this afternoon as it comes to Senate Finance.”

Randy Walker is a musician and freelance writer in Roanoke. He received a bachelor's degree in journalism...