On November 7, 2022 Bellingham City Council approved Ordinance 2022-11-025 adopting code amendments providing a degree of protection for manufactured home parks (MHPs) in Bellingham.
In 2019 in response to increasing concerns related to housing affordability and availability Bellingham amended the Comprehensive Plan to include Goal H-5 in the Housing Chapter which states “Existing manufactured home parks (MHPs) should be preserved.” The goal statement was paired with a matching actionable Policy H-55 which states “Identify and evaluate methods to encourage the preservation of existing manufactured home parks to ensure their continued provision of affordable housing.”
In 2020 and 2021 Planning and Community Development Department staff evaluated a variety of preservation strategies and determined that three were most likely to be effective and feasible in the near term. These included establishing a protective MHP overlay zone, enhancing MHP tenant opportunity to purchase, and expanding MHP closure notifications. Code amendments implementing these strategies were developed and in 2022 the Planning and Development Commission held a public hearing and made recommendations on the amendments to City Council. City Council held a public hearing and work sessions on the Planning and Development Commission recommendations and adopted Ordinance 2022-11-025 on November 7, 2022.
BMC 20.35.100 defines an overlay zone intended to retain sufficient land for mobile and manufactured homes in certain existing mobile and manufactured home parks (MHPs) while allowing a variety of other uses.
This overlay includes all ten MHPs in Bellingham, and if no further action is taken, will be in effect for 30 years (until November 22, 2052). The overlay zone allows mobile and manufactured housing as well as churches, schools, public utilities, and wireless communication facilities. For mobile and manufactured housing uses the overlay zone has no density limitations, meaning for this specific housing form the density requirements of the underlying zoning do not apply.
The overlay zone includes a use exception clause allowing property owners of MHPs to appeal to the Hearing Examiner to seek exemption from the requirements of the overlay. To do this, owners must demonstrate they have no reasonable use of their property under the overlay; or that the uses allowed under the overlay are not economically viable at that location.
BMC 20.10.033 defines who shall be notified and the timeline for notification when the owner of a manufactured home park enters into an agreement for the sale or transfer of the MHP property.
The code specifies that the MHP owner must notify all tenants, qualified tenant organizations, and eligible organizations identified in BMC 20.08.020, the office of manufactured home relocation assistance, the City of Bellingham, the Bellingham Housing Authority, and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
The notification must include a statement that the owner intends to sell the MHP community, as well as the contact information for the landlord, or their agent, who is responsible for communicating with a qualified tenant organization, or other eligible organizations, regarding the sale of the property. It must also include the price, terms, and conditions of the sale and a copy of any pending sales agreements. Finally, the notification must include a statement of the deadline for submission of a proposed purchase and sale agreement from a qualified tenant organization or other eligible organization.
If the owner of an MHP enters into a purchase and sale agreement prior to notifying tenants and other qualified organizations, the agreement must include an express reference to the notice requirements, including the owner’s obligation to negotiate in good faith with the tenants if they notify the owner in writing of their interest in purchasing the MHP. Also, any purchase and sale agreement should include a closing date no earlier than six months from the date of execution to provide the required notice to the tenants and afford them a meaningful opportunity to negotiate a purchase of the park.
If a qualified tenant organization or other eligible organization, after receiving the notice of sale, wishes to purchase the MHP, it shall submit a proposed purchase and sale agreement in writing via certified or registered mail to the MHP owner within 60 days of receipt of the MHP owner’s notice of sale. The MHP owner shall engage in good faith negotiations with the qualified tenant organization or other eligible organizations. If the MHP owner accepts the organization’s proposal, the organization shall have 120 days in addition to the 60-day notice period in which to obtain any necessary financing or guarantees and to close on the purchase. If no qualified tenant organization exists at the time the MHP owner gives its notice of sale, the homeowners may form one for the purpose of considering whether to exercise the purchase opportunity.
BMC 20.10.033 States that the owner of an MHP that is closing or changing use must comply with the applicable requirements of the Washington Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act (Chapter 59.20 RCW) and Mobile Home Relocation Assistance (Chapter 59.21 RCW).
The owner of an MHP must also submit a relocation report and plan to the City of Bellingham’s Planning and Community Development Department for approval prior to issuing a 12-month eviction notice in the case of a change of use or closure of an MHP.
Further questions related to the protection and preservation of MHPs may be directed to email@example.com