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Rent control could be coming to Michigan mobile home parks

Six of the eight legislators who endorsed the idea will be in the majority next year

When control of the Michigan Legislature switches to Democrats in January, expect some bills that have not received attention under Republican control to get more traction. Two possible bills would impose rent controls on mobile home parks.

House bills 5396 and 5397 were introduced in the Michigan House by Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstone, in October 2021. They would put price controls on lot rents and require park owners to get state government permission to raise rents.

House Bill 5396 would limit lot rent increases during a year to no more than the general inflation rate, as measured by the CPI, or consumer price index.

House Bill 5397 would require any person or company that owns a mobile home park to get the permission of a state commission before raising lot rents. Owners would need to notify the government at least six months before the increase goes into effect.

The Michigan Manufactured Housing Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, would oversee the requirements. Its members include local government officials, mobile home manufacturers, home dealers, organized labor and park residents.

Advocates of government-imposed limits say that mobile home park residents need them. “Unlike a normal landlord-tenant situation, they can’t just pick up and move. Moving your home is costly and difficult,” one New York official told the New York Post in 2019. Rent controls are politically popular; according to an Oct. 22 article published by the Santa Clara Press Democrat, 104 local governments in California impose rental control on lot rentals.

But efforts to establish controls ran into significant opposition in another state last month. Legislators in Colorado were considering a rent control law, and Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, threatened to veto a bill that would have create statewide rent controls on mobile home lots in the Centennial State. According to Colorado Public Radio, Polis was concerned that the measure could lead to some parks being closed or abandoned.

Economists are skeptical of rent controls, though the issue of rent control is usually framed in terms of apartments rather than mobile home parks. In a recent online poll conducted by the University of Chicago, only one of 25 academic economists who expressed an opinion on rent control thought it was beneficial. David Autor, an economics professor at MIT, wrote, “Rent control discourages supply of rental units. Incumbent renters benefit from capped prices. New renters face reduced rental options.”

Both HB 5396 and HB 5397 are sitting in the Committee on Regulatory Reform, with one sponsor and seven co-sponsors, all Democrats. Five of the the legislators will serve in the next House or Senate, including Camerilli, who will move from the House to the Senate.

Michigan Capitol Confidential sent an email to Camerilli’s official e-mail account. As of press time, he did not reply.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.