Geraldine McNamara’s Story: Time for Elected Officials to Step Up

I was born on the South Side of Chicago and left when I was 22. I lived in a number of states over the years, Colorado, Missouri, and Alabama before settling in Florida in South Daytona Beach. I’m very interested in ensuring that people can live healthy lives. I have a degree as a naturopathic doctor and owned and ran a health food store in Missouri for five years. Prior to moving to Florida from Alabama, my finances took a turn for the worse when my husband of 25 years wanted a separation. After that, I found myself looking at starting over again in Florida with only a small amount of savings in hand. I had a really difficult time finding a place to live. All the rentals required first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. That would leave me with little or no savings left. I found that manufactured housing was the only affordable option available to me.

Even though the house I bought in the Carriage Cove community was a fixer upper, I was happy to again own a home that I could call my own. At first glance, I really liked living in a manufactured home community. Our community is close knit. Everybody watches out for each other. That’s a nice feeling.

But that’s where the good feelings end. The corporations that own the manufactured communities are putting senior citizens thru the ringer. Especially the one I’m living in which is owned by Equity Life Style Properties. The lot rents increase while our services decrease.

Take our recent experience with Hurricane Matthew. Our lot rent is supposed to cover lawn maintenance fees. Our lawns were covered with downed trees, limbs, branches and flying debris. Yet, our park manager told us it was our responsibility to clean it up and if we got the limbs, etc., to the curbs they would have it collected. We were told to contact our insurance companies and have them deal with it. Excuse me? Most of the homes in this community do not qualify for insurance because of their age. Mine is 45 years old. To date, the branches and limbs are still not collected.

They also slapped us with a 6-1/2% lot rent increase November 1st. We are all strapped. Most of us have our homes up for sale or rent because we cannot afford these rates. Most are in panic because now we don’t know where we are going to live. I cannot get up on my roof to take off the limbs and branches that fell from the very tall trees which they tell me are my responsibility to trim and maintain.

I’m not getting sleep and my health is starting to suffer. When I moved here 3 years ago, into this community, the lot rent was $525 per month plus electric. After the most recent increase, I’m paying $707.95 plus electric. Many of my neighbors have higher lot rent bills and several are already paying $765-785 per month plus electric. When will it stop? Their business practices have forced me to decide to put my home up for sale.

The thing that made me cry was when I saw a neighbor — a veteran in his late 70’s — sitting in his wheelchair, helpless, while his wife struggled with trying to pull a large branch to the curb. This is NOT right. Where are the lawmakers? Where are our rights as seniors? There should be a cap on what we have to pay. I no longer can buy decent food at the grocery store that I would prefer to eat. I am not alone either. At the rate we are all going, it looks like living in the car will be a distinct possibility — adding to the growing homeless list.

I’ve learned that Sam Zell, the Chairman of Equity Lifestyle Properties, sent campaign donations to Senator Mark Rubio and Representative Ron DeSantis. We need our elected officials to stop chasing large money donors like Sam Zell and start listening to the needs of our community. We also need Sen. Bill Nelson to weigh in on this very important issue. It’s time that they step in to ensure that Equity Lifestyle Properties and other corporate owners curb their harmful practices.