With demise of mobile home parks in Kelowna, affordable home ownership slips away for many | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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With demise of mobile home parks in Kelowna, affordable home ownership slips away for many

Many of the units in Central Mobil Park are older and worth only a quarter of what an average condo costs.
February 20, 2021 - 1:02 PM

It may take years, but another 133 affordable housing units will disappear out of the Kelowna market when the Central Mobile Park is redeveloped.

This follows on the closure of the Hiawatha mobile home park that will be complete by the end of March.

At this time, the new owner of the Central Mobile Park – Chilliwack-based developer Kerkhoff Construction – isn’t saying how many or what type of housing units will replace the existing structures. It’s unlikely they will be in the price range of most of the owners currently living there.

“Some (units) are really old,” resident Collen Hansen told iNFOnews.ca. “There are probably 10 units worth between $250,000 and $300,000. The rest are all under $100,000.”

Three are currently listed for sale. One is a 1987 double wide listed at $249,900, while another is a 1991 single-wide listed at $168,000 and the third is a 1974 model with an asking price of only $95,000.

This double-wide is for sale for $249,000.
This double-wide is for sale for $249,000.

The benchmark price for a condo in the Central Okanagan is $401,500, based on calculations by the Association of Interior Realtors.

Owners could try to relocate their homes but that's not going to be easy to do, especially if they were built before 1990.

“It’s apples and oranges, pre-1980s and post-1980s,” Al Kemp, executive director of the Manufactured Home Park Owner’s Alliance of B.C., said.

The original mobile home parks were created in the 1960s through the 1980s, he said. They were often family owned operations located far from city centres.

In those days, they were truly mobile homes, often with hitches and wheels and built with 1x2 walls with little insulation.

In the late 1980s, new Z-240 standards were put in place in order to create “manufactured” homes that were hauled on trailers instead of wheels and had 2x4 or 2x6 walls with good insulation and better roofs.

The older ones, if they could be moved at all, would not be accepted in most parks. The newer ones could be more safely moved but that may not be practical. Hansen says hers has three additions so relocating would be no simple, or cheap, task.

Then there’s the question of where they could go.

After Westcorp bought the Hiawatha park in 2007 it took them six years to buy out the owners. They demolished 36 of the 94 units (Kemp said that can cost up to $15,000 each, especially if they have asbestos in them).

The rest were rented out until eviction notices were issued in December so construction can start on their massive new housing project.

READ MORE: Developer makes high end plans for Kelowna campground that's home to low income earners

That’s likely the process the Central Mobile Park residents will go through but they don’t know for sure.

“It’s all fine and dandy that they (Kerkhoff) say it will be a five- to 10-year plan,” Hansen said. “But there are a few of us in there who say we want to move out now. They’re going: ‘We’ll buy you out when we feel it’s a good time for us to buy you out.’”

That may not be a good time for the residents, especially if their assessed values drop.

Kerkhoff could negotiate a price with the owners that could be at market value, but if that fails he only has to pay assessed value, which is usually lower, Kemp said.

In order to do that Kerkhoff has to give a year’s notice and pay the pad rental for a year, Kemp said.

There are plenty of mature trees that the city would like to see preserved.
There are plenty of mature trees that the city would like to see preserved.

Hansen worries the assessed value will drop as time goes on. Since assessed value depends a lot on what other similar nearby units sell for and since people may not buy knowing the park will close, they can become less valuable over time.

One of Hansen’s neighbours has his unit for sale. It’s had 2,600 views on social media but not a single showing, she said.

Many units increased in assessed value in 2020 but that was based on July values, which was prior to the sale of the park.

Regardless of what happens with individual owners, the reality is that there will be 133 fewer places to park any kind of manufactured home (new ones are called modular homes).

Since most mobile home parks were family owned and set up decades ago, the owners are more inclined to sell as they retire and family members don’t want to take over the business, Kemp said.

There’s not much in the way of new parks coming on stream.

“What we need is a combination of available land, which isn’t for condominium development or shopping malls or whatever,” Kemp said. “Often it’s city-owned land or government-owned land, so available land is number one.

“Then there needs to be the political will to say, yes, a manufactured home community is desirable in our area and there needs to be a developer. Getting all three of these in the same location is really, really difficult.”

Local attitudes towards these parks need to change, Kemp argued.

“We promote manufactured homes as affordable housing, but unfortunately the government won’t listen to us because they don’t understand the difference between a manufactured home community and a trailer park they watched on TV,” Kemp said. “I say that only slightly facetiously.”

Cities have grown closer to many parks over the years so they’re often sitting on what has become very valuable land.

That’s certainly the case in Kelowna where the Hiawatha site sits next to Wilson Creek and is right across Lakeshore Road from Okanagan Lake. Part of it was one of the last remaining campgrounds near Okanagan Lake in Kelowna.

Just north of Hiawatha is the Shasta mobile home park. It’s been owned by the same company for the last 40 years and there are no plans to redevelop, said the man who answered the office phone but did not give his name.

B.C. Assessments show two properties at the Shasta address of 3745 Lakeshore Rd., along with about 140 individual units.

One property, dated 1943, is 10 acres assessed at $7.8 million and the other, dated 1972, is 8.54 acres valued at $6.8 million.

Central Mobile Park, which is on Casorso Road, is further back from the lake but still within easy walking distance and covers 24 acres. It was reported to have sold for $15 million.

Kerkoff has more than the residents to deal with.

Ryan Smith, the City’s community planning department manager said he wants Kerfhoff to work with nine adjoining property owners to properly plan roads in the area. He’s also looking for an affordable housing component to any redevelopment, parks and protection for some of the mature trees in the park.

Residents don't think they can afford to buy into One Water Street, which Kerkhoff is currently building downtown.
Residents don't think they can afford to buy into One Water Street, which Kerkhoff is currently building downtown.

Kerkoff is currently building two residential towers at One Water Street in downtown Kelowna and has just applied to build a 41-storey tower next to UBCO’s proposed downtown campus.

READ MORE: Third 40-plus storey tower proposed for downtown Kelowna

A worker in Kerkhoff’s office told iNFOnews.ca the company had nothing more to add about the Central site at this time other than what had been released when the property was purchased last fall.

At that time the company said it would work with residents to find ways for them to relocate and that there was no immediate plans for them to move.

Hansen said one meeting was held but it mostly dealt with new park rules.

She wants to sell now because she only bought her home three years ago as an investment. Others, she said, have told her they’ll chain themselves to their homes rather than be forced to leave.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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