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Delaware lawmakers seek to cap mobile home rents

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(The Center Square) — Delaware’s mobile home residents would be shielded from higher rents under a proposal approved by the state House of Representatives.

The Democratic-sponsored bill, which passed the House on a 25-13 largely party-line vote, would prohibit manufactured home community owners from increasing rent by more than 5% each year and sets penalties for park owners that don’t comply with the requirements.

Lawmakers who back the rent control proposal said the move is necessary to help protect “vulnerable” mobile home tenants from skyrocketing rents amid a housing crisis.

“We are still in the midst of an affordable housing crisis in Delaware, and many residents across our state depend on manufactured homes for housing stability,” Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear, the bill’s main sponsor, said in a statement. “Many of those manufactured home residents are on a fixed income – seniors, veterans, people with disabilities – and any increase to their rent can be traumatic.”

Last year, Delaware lawmakers approved a plan to tie mobile home rents to the consumer price index to help ease costs for seniors and others on fixed incomes. But the move backfired as inflation reached a record high last year, prompting hefty rent increases for some residents.

“I’ve spoken to manufactured home residents in my district in tears not knowing where they are going to find the funds for the additional rent,” Longhurst said. “This bill will provide some additional stability and predictability to these manufactured home residents.”

Under the proposal, landlords that increase rents by more than 5% would be prohibited from doing so in the following year. The bill will also require the Office of the Manufactured Housing Ombudsperson to hold informational meetings to provide residents with information on resources from the state, including how to apply for rental assistance.

House Republicans objected to the proposal, arguing that the state shouldn’t be setting mandates on manufactured home community owners that could push them out of business, further reducing Delaware’s affordable housing stock.

The First State Manufactured Housing Association, representing mobile home park operators, also expressed concerns about the changes one year after setting the other requirements for the industry.

But Democrats argued that the changes were needed to offset the “unintended consequences” of the 2022 law indexing rent increases to inflation.

“The residents of manufactured home communities are some of the most vulnerable constituents we represent,” said state Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-New Castle. “They are often seniors on fixed incomes or families with limited means who moved into these communities for the promise of relatively low housing costs, only to find that they can be hit with large increases in the rent they pay on the land beneath their feet.”

The measure now moves to the Senate, which must approve it before sending it to Gov. John Carney’s desk for consideration.

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