A Decent Home played to packed houses at FilmScene when director Sara Terry held screenings of the documentary this spring. The film tells the story of mobile home park residents as they try to preserve their communities and their homes after the parks are bought by private equity funds and other investors determined to maximize profits at their expense. North Liberty’s Golf View Mobile Home Court is one of the communities featured in the film.
A Decent Home is returning to Iowa for a limited number of screenings, beginning this weekend.
“Screenings in each location will include community discussions with the filmmaking team and Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network leaders,” the Network said in a news release. “All screenings are free and open to the public, sponsored by A Decent Home film crew and the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network.”
The film’s first stop will be in North Liberty, where Golf View residents were told rents were being increased by almost 60 percent after the mobile home court was purchased in 2019 by a Utah-based private equity firm. The story of those residents and how they have organized to stand up for their rights are central to A Decent Home.
Terry told Little Village what made Golf View stand out to her when she was in Iowa City for the FilmScene screenings in April.
“I found an activism here that doesn’t exist in other places yet,” Terry explained. “The involvement, for example, of organized labor, the Teamsters… They understand that if their workers don’t have affordable homes, what’s the point of a union job? So, I found the growth of an intersectional conversation here that’s just powered by incredible park residents who are putting it all on the line to speak up about what they need and to ask people to respond.”
There will be a total of seven Iowa screenings over the next week.
• North Liberty: Saturday, Aug. 20 at 1 p.m., North Liberty Public Library, 520 W Cherry St.
• Dubuque: Sunday, Aug. 21 at 2 p.m., UAW 94 hall, 3450 Central Ave.
• University of Iowa College of Law: Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 5:30 p.m., 295 Boyd Law Building
• Altoona: Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 5:30 p.m., Prairie Meadows Events Center, Bishop AB Room, 1 Prairie Meadows Dr,
• Waukee: Thursday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m., Waukee Community Center, 675 Walnut St.
• Iowa City: Friday, Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. with a second screening at 6 p.m., Iowa State Extension Building, Johnson County Fairgrounds
The screenings in North Liberty and Waukee, as well as the two Aug. 26 screening at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, will feature captions in Spanish. The discussions following those screenings will have Spanish interpretation available.
Mobile home residents have fewer legal protections in Iowa than any other group of renters, but the situation improved somewhat this year. After a strong lobbying effort by the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network and its member groups, such as the Golf View Residents Association, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill addressing some of their concerns. For example, a mobile home park owner now must provide “the general reason for the denial” if it refuses to let someone who has purchased a mobile home already in that park keep the home on its lot. (Mobile home parks residents own their homes, but the company owns the land the home stands on.) Park owners can also no longer require tenants to modify their mobile homes in ways that would make it difficult to move elsewhere if they became dissatisfied with the park.
The new screenings of A Decent Home come as problems at a mobile home park in Marion are entering the spotlight. KCRG reported this week that some residents of Eagle Ridge had received eviction notices from RHP Properties, a Michigan-based company that bought the 335-lot mobile home park three months ago. RHP is the county’s largest owner of mobile home parks.
The eviction notices claimed the residents had failed to pay certain fees, but it was unclear to the residents what those fees are.
“It was basically, ‘Pay that balance, or you’re going to be kicked out in three days,’” AnnMarie Marsack, who received one of the notices, told KCRG.
Marsack contacted the company for an explanation. “What is this previous balance? They could not tell me any answers.” She paid the balance, but said she still doesn’t understand what she was paying for.
RHP issued a written statement saying it had “set up a system to clearly communicate with residents on various topics including planned upgrades that will take place such as improving the club house and roads, and establishing a billing system for monthly statements. Transitioning to a new system may encounter some issues, and if an erroneous charge appears we quickly work to resolve it.”
RHP acquired Eagle Ridge in May along with the two other Iowa mobile home parks, Park View Village in Grimes and Sunrise Mill in Pella. The company reportedly paid $69.3 million for the three parks. RHP owns 315 mobile home parks around the nation.