Yvonne Maldanato is a resident of Silver Stream Village, a mobile home park in New Windsor. Maldanato and other residents have been fighting rent increases for the past two years. The current owner, RHP Properties has increased rent twice.
“I bought my home here at the end of August of 2016,” said Maldanato, standing in front of her home. “Started at a rent of $695. Right now, our lot rent is almost reaching 1000 dollars.” Maldanato currently lives on a fixed income, she considers selling her home and leaving the park. But she wonders if that’s even possible with the increase in rent.
With the support of Sen. James Skoufis, Maldanato and other residents of Silver Stream Village they demanded RHP Properties withdraw their most recent rent increase in a press conference last Thursday. Under, the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, mobile home lot rent increases are capped at 3 percent barring extenuating circumstances such as a significant property tax increase.
“We’re here because the largest mobile home park owner in the country, RHP properties, is taking advantage of the residents of Silver Stream Village,” said Skoufis. “These are residents, Spanish speakers, veterans, seniors, people on fixed income.”
RHP is currently proposing a rent increase that has approached 6 percent over the past year. “Some of the people standing next to me and behind me will be literally driven out of their homes,” said Skoufis.
RHP officially took over Silver Stream in 2017. “This is the second year in a row,” said Skoufis. “Two times, since they have taken over in just two short years, that the residents have seen a rent increase of this magnitude. And this time in 2019, it is illegal.”
The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act came into effect this past July.
“So, the first thing that we looked up, that I looked up with the residents behind me,” said Skoufis. “Have they had an extenuating circumstance here in Silver Stream Village?”
The answer is no. According to Skoufis, the town and county property taxes for RHP decreased over the past year. In addition, school and library taxes only increased 1.1 percent.
“How in the world can the park owner, RHP Properties justify a rent increase of nearly 6 percent? When their property taxes increased under nearly one percent,” said Skoufis. RHP Properties sent a letter to residents explaining the rent increase. According to Skoufis, in the letter there is an acknowledgement of the recent legislation, but no justification given.
“There is literally no justification for this rent increase that residents are seeing in Silver Stream Village,” said Skoufis.
Skoufis is also calling on the state’s Homes and Community Renewal Agency to intervene and negotiate a lawful rent increase with RHP.
“With these new owners,” said Maldanato. “No communication, no respect for us. We tried to reach out to them. We tried to talk to them. We said, look meet us halfway. All we want to do is communicate with the people. They refused to talk to us. They refused to communicate with us.”
In addition to Silver Stream Village, RHP also owns other mobile home parks, like Twin Lakes Village. For the residents of Twin Lakes, their struggles aren’t too different from the residents of Silver Stream.
“They were treating everyone less than human,” said Susanne Denton, resident of Twin Lakes. “It’s all about the money.” Denton and Maldanato hope to form a union of residents of all the mobile home parks owned by RHP Properties.
At the end of the press conference, residents and their supporters marched through Silver Stream Village chanting against RHP Properties.
“It’s time they provide these residents with the respect they deserve, and if they aren’t compelled to do it on their own,” said Skoufis, “I will make sure that they are held accountable. I stand with the residents of Silver Stream and won’t stop fighting for them until this situation is remediated.”