From Fruitport, Michigan and Great Falls, Montana to Santa Ana, California and exurban Miami,
Florida, residents in manufactured home communities (mobile home parks) are rising up against
predatory corporations and building a rare multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement in rural and exurban
areas. It is a space where LaShawn Robins feels safe to organize against the anti-Black racism in
her Michigan community, Pastora Martinez in Santa Ana, CA can build power along with and on
behalf of her undocumented neighbors, and where JoJo Bailey and her white neighbors in Waukee,
Iowa can deepen their analysis of intersecting systems of injustice. This is the story of the
movement LaShawn, Pastora and JoJo and thousands of manufactured home residents are building
through Manufactured Housing Action (MHAction).

MHAction has been organizing manufactured home residents since 2011 to build the leadership and
power of low-income residents in rural and exurban areas and small cities across the country.
Today, MHAction is coaching multi-racial, multi-ethnic, predominantly women-led teams of
manufactured home residents in Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Florida, Utah, California, and Delaware,
with emerging teams in Montana, North Dakota, and Missouri and partnerships in Texas and New
Hampshire. Building on proven online to offline organizing strategies, MHAction’s c4 sister
organization, MHAction Votes!, recently launched to build rural and exurban progressive electoral
power.

Manufactured home communities, once affordable, tight-knit places to live for seniors, low-income
families, immigrants, and others, are under siege. Residents face dire threats—investors taking over
communities for huge profit, stagnating income, climate disasters, and, now, COVID-19. Corporate
real estate investors—the landlords to 2 million manufactured home residents across the
country—rely on dramatically increasing lot rents (the fee residents pay for the land beneath their
homes) and other fees and decreasing maintenance. Residents are left choosing between rent and
food or medical care, and some are forced to abandon their homes. Due to exploitative landlords,
they suffer with health and safety risks caused by poor maintenance and impeded climate disaster
recovery.

JoJo Bailey of Waukee, Iowa is 86 years old and she’s lived in her manufactured home community
for 25 years. A little over a year ago, Havenpark Capital, a private equity group, bought up her
community, raised her lot rent, piled on fees, and now JoJo is paying nearly $200 more per month.
JoJo explains, “I try to get by on my social security check and a part-time job at the grocery story.
I’m still working at the store through this virus because I need that extra money to make ends meet.
I’m hardly making it.” JoJo’s neighbors are leaving, selling their homes for a loss because they can’t
afford to stay and are sick of the stress. But JoJo keeps fighting with along with MHAction leaders
in Havenpark-owned communities in Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota, and Montana. She says, “I
don’t want to move. But if I can’t afford to be here, I’ll have to find something. Maybe I’ll find a
roommate. Or pitch a tent. We need to band together to fight back and make sure no more families
become homeless because of these greedy companies.”

Right-wing forces try to convince people that these problems are unique to their community and
caused by their individual poor choices. As one MHAction member put it, “the system tries to tell
us that it’s just us, that we’re isolated.” And that isolation and economic anxiety can push white
residents to embrace racial and ethnic hatred and anti-government sentiments. LaShawn Robins, an
African American woman who lives in a predatory investor-owned community in Fruitport, MI
describes how racism and corporate greed intersect in her community. “I’ve seen an influx of white
nationalists into our community. My husband and I were told that some of our neighbors made false
complaints against us, which I think were racially motivated. Impact Communities hasn’t reassured
us or made us feel protected. Instead, they treated us like we were the problem – coming after us for
made up lease violations I think to try to get rid of us. It feels like their greediness fuels the hate in
our community.”

MHAction is building a grassroots movement as an antidote to the white supremacist, patriarchal,
anti-government messages the right-wing pumps into rural and exurban communities. In this multi-
racial, multi-ethnic movement space built around love and connection, MHAction leaders come to
see that they are not isolated. The landlord abuses that they face, whether in Florida or North
Dakota, are part of a deliberate business model squeezing profits out of manufactured home
residents’ inability to move their homes. Further, through the movement, leaders, especially white
leaders, see that their struggles stem from the same racist and patriarchal systems and corporate
capture of our democracy that are fueling our national affordable housing crisis and oppressing low-
income renters and workers, particularly in communities of color.

With a grounding in our shared fate and common values, MHAction leaders are building their
power. MHAction has built multi-racial, multi-ethnic, predominantly women-led teams of
manufactured home residents in ten states. They are led by residents like Cindy Newman in Great
Falls, Montana, who has lived in her manufactured home community for 20 years, loving her
neighborhood and tending to her garden. Since Havenpark Capital bought her community a year
ago and jacked up their rent, Cindy is outraged and, at a time when she’d like to rest after decades
of working and raising her family, she is organizing her neighbors and fighting back. MHAction
supports leaders like Cindy through robust online to offline organizing, deep leadership
development, a Spanish-English language justice program, and support to develop and drive
corporate and policy campaigns.

MHAction’s goal is to expand the multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement of rural and exurban
residents to reach the 2 million people paying rent to corporate owners—a population on par with
the Walmart workforce. MHAction aims to empower resident leaders in this movement to shape the
narrative about social injustices, hold corporations and government accountable, and advance
transformational solutions in solidarity with the broader progressive movement.
Boosting on this movement and its online to offline organizing model, MHAction Votes! was
launched to build electoral power. Using the stories of manufactured home residents and their fight
against predatory landlords, MHAction Votes! has the unique ability to engage voters around
corporate capture of our government and the destructive impact of the deregulation and hate-fueled
agenda of the right-wing. By rooting electoral strategies in deep organizing, MHAction Votes! can
build electoral power beyond a single-election cycle to weaken right-wing forces in rural and
exurban areas and sustain predominantly women-led grassroots teams that are grounded in
compassion for their neighbors and love of their communities.

Download and print a copy of MHAction’s August 2020 newsletter to share with your neighbors.