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‘I’m just blown away.’  Charlotte family forced out of 50-year-old home

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Besieged Refuge

Mobile home parks have been a reliable source of affordable housing in Charlotte for decades, offering prices well below nearby apartments or homes. But a confluence of factors, including rising land prices and an influx of investors looking to make money buying parks, threatens that way of life. New reporting and data analysis from The Charlotte Observer show how, amid the city’s growing affordable housing crisis, this remaining haven has come under siege.

For the first time in half a century, Stacy Sprinkle’s family will soon no longer be called Countrywoods Mobile Home Park.

She’s seen the North Charlotte community grow and change since her father bought the two-bedroom, one-bathroom home in 1972 when she was 13. Since then she has lived here several times, the last time to care for her elderly mother.

The park off WT Harris Boulevard and Old Statesville Road was tightly knit and affordable, Sprinkle said. Many families had lived there for a decade or more.

“There were a lot of neighbors,” she said. “Everyone knew each other’s kids or friends.”

But in August, the park was sold to Raleigh-based Countrywoods Community LLC, which is tied to an upstate New York company that owns several mobile home parks.

First, the company raised the rents for the lots, but first reassured residents that they wouldn’t have to move out if they kept paying.

Then the notices started coming in that their monthly leases would not be renewed.

Everyone had to leave.

Sprinkle says they’ve paid their rent faithfully, even though the latest increase to $407 a month has stretched their budget which is mostly covered by her and her mother’s Social Security benefits.

The rest of the two dozen Countrywoods families, who did not own their homes like Sprinkle does but rent both their location and their residences, were also told earlier this year that their leases would not be renewed.

Sprinkle, 63, watched family after family move, with a deadline of late May.

“I’ll probably be the last (to leave),” she said, pacing the now-empty park on a recent afternoon, where few traces of life remain.

What remains: Christmas lights hanging from empty houses. Children’s bikes in the front. Potted plants baked in the sun.

Stacy Sprinkle takes care of her 82-year-old mother Mary, with whom she shares her mobile home. Sprinkle has made many improvements to their home over the years, but due to the age of the home, it cannot be moved and will be demolished as the residents of Countrywoods Mobile Home Park will be evicted. Photo from May 2, 2022.

Where there were once rows of rectangular houses, there is now a combination of abandoned houses that have not yet been demolished, freshly knocked down ground where the already demolished ones once stood, and new larger and more prefab houses. more expensive ones that will replace them.

“It takes my breath away,” she said. “Before, people rented here and it was affordable for us. Most of us don’t have a lot of money,” she said of Countrywoods residents.

“Then they put in these new trailers, and wow,” she said. “It’s something to see this after all these years.”

Representatives for KDM Development, the New York-based company, did not respond to phone or email requests for comment.

Mobile home communities have become a target for investors and private equity firms as a significant profit opportunity, experts say, leaving their low-income residents vulnerable to displacement.

A review by The Charlotte Observer of local property records shows that around 20 parks – roughly a third of those in Mecklenburg County – have changed ownership in the past five years, with several being purchased by outside companies to the state and large investors.

“Stress and Tension”

Packing half a century of life has been a stressful undertaking, she said. Most family photos, showing generations of special occasions and everyday life, are already off the walls. Moving boxes are stacked in the living room, where Sprinkle sleeps on the sofa or on an inflatable mattress so his mother and son can take each of the bedrooms.

“It was tough,” she said. “It’s been a lot of stress and tension.”

Sprinkle mourns the improvements they’ve painstakingly saved up that they won’t be able to keep – new floors in the kitchen and hallway, and repairs to the bathroom to make it more accessible to her 82-year-old mother.

Even though the family fully owns their home, they cannot take it with them. Mobile homes built before 1976 cannot be moved, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s code that sets construction and safety standards for manufactured homes.

Although residents often use the terms mobile homes, manufactured homes, or sometimes trailers somewhat interchangeably, these classifications are important.

Anything built after 1976 is a manufactured home and can be moved. Sprinkle is not.

“He can’t be moved,” she said. “I wish; (there are) memories in it.

‘I’m just blown away.’  Charlotte family forced out of 50-year-old home

 |  Latest News Headlines

For Countrywoods Mobile Home Park resident Stacy Sprinkle, the moving order from a new owner marks the first time in nearly 50 years that her family will not call Countrywoods home.

Now, Sprinkle is working to buy a nearby manufactured home that a former Countrywoods resident had rented, rushing to get the permits and funds to move it to a nearby park.

But this has a price.

It can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to move the house and restore water, sewer and other services to make it habitable. This will come from the money Sprinkle was saving for a new car. She plans to stay until the very end of the month in the family home.

“I’m staying until the very last minute,” she said.

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