Many of the mobile homes in Riverview Estates, 3407 Mt. Hope Ave., are empty. The streets inside the small manufactured home park are crumbling and so are the homes, occupied or empty. Windows are covered with plywood; doors swing open.
On Thursday, one of the mobile homes was being demolished by a small excavator as another construction vehicle moved a dumpster into place for the rubble. The activity is just the beginning of a major facelift, says Mark Wolfe, the property manager.
The manufactured home park was sold on Dec. 15 on land contract to Riverview Estates MHC LLC, a California company, by South Lyon-based Riverview 110 Estates LLC. The sale price does not appear in city property tax records. There are approximately 157 lots on the 10-acre site. Most of the units are singlewide. Wolfe was unsure of the number of residents in the park because of the transitions.
The new owners are demolishing as many as 23 mobile homes in the park, repaving the road and bringing in brand new manufactured homes worth $32,000 to $36,000 each, he said. And Wolfe added that homes remaining on the property after the demolition will be rehabbed.
“It’s going to be really nice,” he said by phone. “It needed it. It was really bad.”
The rehabilitation of the park could take as long as two years, Wolfe said. Demolitions began in January and rehabilitation of certain homes will begin March 1, he said.
Lansing City Councilwoman Carol Wood said she has been fielding complaints against the property since at least 2007. The problems have included sewer issues and structural issues. But state law was a barrier for municipalities like Lansing that sought to inspect mobile home communities and enforce the local building codes.
That changed with a 2015 law, pushed by then State Rep. Andy Schor. The new law gives local communities the power to enforce their building codes in manufactured home communities. Nonetheless, the city has continued to struggle to institute a final enforcement program under the revised law, said Wood.
“It is now being reviewed by the law department,” Wood said of enforcement capacity for the city. “It’s been a series of miscommunications and delays, but I am told it is being looked and should be cleared soon.”
In Lansing, inspections of mobile home parks, or manufactured home communities, has been an issue for years. It boiled over in 2015 when the Ingham County Health Department, citing failed sanitary sewers and other issues, condemned the former Life O’Riley mobile home park, 6726 S. Washington Ave. In 2017, Ingham County Circuit Judge Clinton Canady III issued an order allowing the city to demolish the 80 units on the 14-acre site and charge the costs to the property.
The actions resulted in scores of people being left homeless and the city’s Human Relations Department scrambling to find emergency housing for many low-income residents.
The property is owned by Whalen Holdings of New York. Billing records from the Ingham County Treasurer’s Office show the company owes $99,704 for 2015 taxes. If that’s not paid by March 1, the county will seize the property in a tax foreclosure, said Eric Schertzing, the county treasurer.
Ingham County also has struggled with the inspection and enforcement of mobile home safety, Wood and Schertzing said.
“It’s certainly not unique to the city. There are barriers to addressing these things,” said Schertzing.
State officials stressed that local municipalities now have right and obligation to inspect and enforce local codes under state law.
“It states that this act shall not be construed to prohibit a municipality from enforcing its local ordinances or from take any other appropriate action to protect the public health, safety, or welfare as authorized by law or its charter,” said Jeannie Vogel, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Of keen interest, Wolfe said, are newer standards for manufactured homes that increase their safety, such as new technology to anchor homes to the ground. Those, he said, have changed dramatically over the years and the newer systems are required by insurance companies in order to cover a unit. Riverview Estates’ new owners have been putting those foundations and moorings in place, he said.
Wolfe said such enforcement of local codes would be most welcome by Riverview Estates.
“As long as everybody is fair,” he said. “It’s really about everybody being safe.”