Whitehorse Mobile Home Parks, Serve a Necessary Purpose

The Mobile Home trailer parks have been a staple of Whitehorse since 1970’s. These homes were built to be temporary and were not built for northern Climates. The older mobile homes, in many cases, had walls built out of 2×2’s, attic insulation not up to current standards by a long shot, inefficient oil furnaces and windows that were not up to northern standards.  To be fair, many houses built during the 70’s had similar problems. Although mobile homes have long played an important role in the Whitehorse housing scene, their biggest benefit is that they are affordable, generally between 10% to 30% of what a single family home costs. For many people who cannot get a mortgage, or ‘a pledge until death’, these homes have been a viable option and an important entry point into the market. Land-lords also look at these homes as an asset and in many cases buy them at a low cost creating an investment capable of providing cash flow, or they are owned by people who move on to a bigger house and rent their old trailer out for cash flow.

As housing prices in Whitehorse have skyrocketed since the year 2000, so have mobile home prices. In trailer parks where the price ceiling used to be $20,000 circa 2004, it is now not uncommon to see trailers listed in the mid $100,000’s. This has had a number of implications, one of which is that entrepreneurs have seen an opportunity to fix these older and dilapidated units up and sell them at a profit. This again has allowed a low cost entry point, this time for entrepreneurs to enter the market, many times self financed and able to contribute value to the market place. While at the same time providing a higher quality and still relatively low cost housing option.

With the above being said their are questions of uncertainty and ever rising costs associated with owning a trailer.  The two that come to mind are 1) The permanence of the trailer parks.  This has been brought into particular light as the small trailer park behind the Cassa-Loama hotel was recently removed and relocated. 2) Lot fee creep, or the ever increasing pad rent associated with owning a mobile home, which generally increases at the maximum $25 per year currently allowed by law, without necessarily any service increases. These problems could be mitigated with the forming of trailer owners associations, or (TOA)’s, setting them up much like a condo strata owners association. This would give trailer owners a seat at the bargaining table when lot fees were to be increased, as well as a say and vision of the future of the trailer park in general, possibly organizing community garbage pick ups, a forum for small businesses in the trailer parks to get some exposure, the addition of parks or green space, some say in disposition of empty trailers and the ability to bring other concerns forward to management through a group instead of individually. If implemented properly, steps like these would make trailer parks cleaner, safer and generally nicer places to live and thus increase the property value for both residents and owners of trailer parks in the Territory.

The question then becomes how to start this process. I think it would first have to start with the trailer owners themselves organizing a meeting and inviting the trailer park owners to attend. This should be done with the idea of forming a partnership in mind with value to be added to both sides and not with an us vs. them mentality. After the initial meeting the TOA could then incorporate themselves or keep their group informal.  Either way some kind of regularly scheduled meeting should be held to keep all parties up to date on different topics and issues. If these steps all worked, eventually TOA’s could even consider buying out the trailer parks, especially if they had already formed a corporation. Lot fees, with years of history of being paid, could make up payments on the land, while the lender would have the security of the trailer park if the loan was defaulted on. There would be costs to consider, one of which would be to retain a competent trailer park manager for the duration of the loan, as well as equipment and operating costs. But as lot fees already cover these costs, monthly payments from all parties would not necessarily have to increase.

Like I stated at the beginning of this article, trailer parks have long played an important role in the Yukon as a reasonable solution for low cost housing. Though they do provide a solution, the uncertainty in owning a trailer on rented land as well as a lack of bargaining power on the behalf of many tenants, who in many cases are also equity holders, is an issue that should be addressed. As with most issues, this is best done by the parties involved before the government eventually will step in and make a patented mess of the situation. Trailer parks have the potential to be quality affordable housing in the Yukon for years to come, and like I stated above, are in many cases a good entry point into the housing market.

 

Article By: Micah Hoeschele  YFP editor

 

 

 

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