NewsLocal News


Residents raise concerns as Utah-based mobile home park plans Billings expansion

Golden Meadows Mobile Home Park
Posted at 9:18 PM, May 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-11 23:18:54-04

BILLINGS — A major mobile home park gets a green light from Billings City Council, but this new addition to affordable housing raises red flags for residents already living in Havenpark properties.

The plan now is to add 276 mobile homes to a 3.27-acre lot next to the Golden Meadows Mobile Home Park near 32nd Street West and King Avenue West. On April 24, the Billings City Council unanimously approved a proposed expansion from Havenpark, a Utah-based company that owns mobile home parks across the country, including three in Billings. These parks are Golden Meadows, Meadowlark and Cherry Creek.

The expansion plans are raising red flags for people already living in Havenpark properties in Billings, including one resident in Golden Meadows whom MTN is keeping anonymous.

“I fear retribution," this resident said. "I have other family members living in this park. I could probably handle it, but they can't.”

Since the Havenpark purchase, residents say lot rent at Golden Meadows has nearly doubled.

"At that time, lot rent was $330 plus trash," the resident said. "For new people moving in now, from what I'm told, it's $649 plus trash, water and sewer. That's about double."

Complaints about steep lot rent increases have been voiced in Havenpark communities across the country. In addition, residents of another Billings park, Meadowlark, have sued the company over water quality issues.

“I do not see for the amount of money they have upped the rents. I do not see any return to us," the Golden Meadows resident said.

In a statement about the new development, the City of Billings told MTN that it, "recognizes the increasing demand for housing, particularly cost-effective options. As Billings continues to grow it's important that housing of all types is developed." A full statement from the city is detailed below.

Havenpark declined an interview with MTN Thursday but did tell state legislators that it has plans to expand in Montana, if the state stays friendly to mobile home park owners.

"There is increasing interest from some local governments to add more availability for mobile home communities," said Charles Denowh, a legislative lobbyist for Havenpark. "We're interested in investing more, building more, adding opportunities, but legislation like this is a major disincentive for anybody to invest in the state."

Denowh's statement came in opposition during a hearing for House Bill 889, a bill brought forward by Rep. Jonathan Karlen, D-Missoula, which would allow mobile home tenants more rights in parks, including giving them year leases, notice of park sales, and protection from retribution for sharing their experiences with lawmakers, courts, or the media.

"People living in mobile home parks are really on the front lines of our housing crisis," Rep. Karlen tells MTN. "They're in a position where they've invested a large sum of money in purchasing a mobile home, but they're also paying lot rent to a park owner and as these parks are getting bought out by sometimes out-of-state private equity firms where lot rent goes up, maintenance goes down, these Montanans are really in a tough spot and the current law is really stacked in favor of the mobile home park owner."

"House Bill 889 enacts several measures that levels the playing field and provides tenants with more stability," Karlen said.

House Bill 889 passed both chambers before the adjournment of the legislative session and is currently awaiting the governor's signature.

Meanwhile, Havenpark's expansion is moving forward but this Golden Meadows resident isn't sticking around to see that happen. They are leaving, but concerns for other tenants remain.

“The most vulnerable population, the elderly, the disabled, those on limited income cannot afford to live here anymore nor can they afford to move their homes.”

City of Billings Planning Division Manager Monica Plecker provided MTN with more information about the Golden Meadows expansion:

"The City of Billings recently approved the expansion of Golden Meadows, an existing mobile home park on Billings’ west end. The expansion project consists of 276 new units, aimed at addressing the growing housing needs in our city and providing affordable homes for local families.

The City review process for this expansion began in February, when an application for subdivision was submitted to the City of Billings' Planning and Community Services Department. Given that the property was already zoned appropriately for this use, there was no necessity for additional land use approvals beyond subdivision. Prior to the City Council acting on the application, the Yellowstone County Board of Planning held a hearing and provided a recommendation for City Council. The subdivision process for this development ensures streets are constructed to city standards, parkland dedication is in conformance with regulations and sidewalks are constructed among a broad list of other infrastructure requirements required with new subdivisions in Billings. The conditional approval granted by the City allows the developer up to three years to complete the subdivision and meet all conditions of approval. Developments typically do not take all three years to reach final plat approval."