ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

heavy-rain-night
85°
Partly Cloudy
H 93° L 75°
  • heavy-rain-night
    85°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 93° L 75°
  • cloudy-day
    76°
    Morning
    Partly Cloudy. H 93° L 75°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    88°
    Afternoon
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 89° L 75°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Mobile home residents hit with soaring rent after hurricanes
Close

Mobile home residents hit with soaring rent after hurricanes

Mobile home residents hit with soaring rent after hurricanes
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gerry Broome
In this photo taken Wednesday, May 29, 2019, resident James Lesane stands at the entrance to his mobile home in Lumberton, N.C. Every month, Lesane pays what he can afford for his mobile home lot rental; $150. But, after the Florida-based company Time Out Communities bought the park, he got a notice in the beginning of this year that his lot rent would be increasing to $465 a month. Mobile home residents in Robeson County, North Carolina are seeing increasing rent prices after being slammed by hurricanes Matthew and Florence.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Mobile home residents hit with soaring rent after hurricanes

For eight years, James Lesane paid what he could for his mobile home lot rental every month — $150. But in February, five months after Hurricane Florence flooded the Lumberton region and shortly after Florida-based company Time Out Communities bought the park, his monthly lot rent more than tripled to $465.

With a fixed Social Security disability income of about $791 a month, Lesane said it's impossible for him to pay that.

"If I had to pay $465 I couldn't even pay the lights in this place," he said, gesturing to the dim lighting inside his trailer, where trash bags covered windows to keep the trailer cool on a sweltering 100-degree day.

Time Out owns 23 properties in low-income Robeson County, many of which were bought in the past two years. At the same time, the county was one of the hardest-hit areas during hurricanes Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018.

All but two of the properties are in Lumberton, where residents say an affordable housing crisis caused by the hurricanes has been exacerbated by Time Out, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company.

In an emailed statement, Time Out said rents were raised consistent with current market rates and that some of the additional revenue will go toward community improvement.

North Carolina Housing Coalition Executive Director Samuel Gunter said it's not uncommon to see property investors "start snatching stuff up," after a disaster because they see a chance to make money.

"In the aftermath of a disaster, folks are flooded, those land values are depressed, and if you have capital, there's economic opportunity there," Gunter said, adding that lower-income communities often live in disaster-prone areas such as flood plains.

"Folks may not be able to do repairs themselves, and if someone comes at them with the right offer, it can be tempting to take," he said.

Gunter said many advocates are worried about the dynamic between mobile home owners who rent land in these parks and park owners, since older mobile homes often can't be moved.

"People may not be able to move their homes, so you have incredible leverage over the people who rent that land," he said.

Time Out owns more than 1,200 home unit rental lots in Lumberton, where residents live in a total of 1,416 mobile home units, according to the 2017 American Community Survey figures from the U.S. Census bureau. In Lumberton, 13.5% of the population lives in mobile homes, more than double the national average.

For many, mobile homes may be the only affordable option after the county was devastated by hurricanes . There's not enough rental stock to accommodate people who have been displaced by the hurricanes, placing a strain on affordable housing resources, according to Gunter.

Of 729 units in Lumberton's public housing program, 187 were put "offline" from the hurricanes, and another 526 are occupied. For the remaining 16 units, Lumberton Housing Authority Director Sheila Oxendine said there are roughly 900 people on the waiting list.

The Robeson County Affordable Housing Coalition, formed in October 2018 after Hurricane Florence, has asked local officials to take action on Time Out's rental increases and asked the town to set up a rental assistance and transitional housing fund. Coalition administrator Mac Legerton said the local government response has been limited.

"Their capacity to respond is limited due to the lack of laws and authority over a private business," he said. "We're forming an interagency task force to review what laws are needed in North Carolina and across the nation ... This business model is certainly unethical and immoral, and it should be illegal."

Lumberton city officials could not be reached for comment.

For now, residents' best hopes are to fight eviction with the help of Legal Aid of North Carolina and North Carolina Justice Center lawyers. Legal Aid has taken on 89 cases, 44 of which are still open. In some cases, lawyers have been able to show that the company gave improper notice, delaying eviction while residents search for a new place to live.

Since April, Shirley Pittman, 69, has been looking for a new place to put her home. She bought her mobile home in 1997 and doesn't know if it's in good enough condition to move. She was surprised when her monthly lot rent jumped from $210 to $465 earlier this year.

"My eyes went wide and I said, 'Oh no, I'm not going to pay, that's too much,' and I refused to sign the lease," she said.

Pittman said she has continued to pay her old rent price. After living in Turner Park for over 20 years on a fixed Social Security disability income, she received a threat of eviction from Time Out in May.

Legal Aid attorney Nicole Mueller said lawyers can't prevent Time Out from raising rent, but that issues surrounding Time Out could turn into an anti-trust class action case.

Because of the housing shortage, Gunter said entire communities are being displaced. In Schoolview, Lesane said he is leaving, and so are a lot of his neighbors, including his sister and his cousin. But before he can leave, Lesane needs several thousand dollars to move his home. So far, he said he's saved about $800 and deposited $100 to hold a lot spot in a mobile home park down the road.

"The whole place is a flood zone," he said. "I'm worried about that, but that's the only place to live."

In the meantime, he pays what rent he can and prays he won't be evicted. If he receives an eviction notice, Legal Aid said they will help.

"I just pray and keep it moving," Lesane said. "God knows how much I can take."

____

Follow Morris at www.twitter.com/AmandaMoMorris

Read More

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Aaron Carreto was enjoying his 10th birthday, playing outside his Compton home on July 6 when two neighbors tossed a lit, homemade firework at him, his family said. The boy reflexively grabbed the illegal firework, which exploded in his left hand, destroying four fingers and most of his palm, the Los Angeles Times reported. Aaron also lost a finger on his right hand and suffered burns on both hands, his face and his torso. One of the neighbors, Walter David Revolorio, 27, was arrested and charged with felony child cruelty and possession of a destructive device, the Times reported. The investigation is ongoing, but no charges had been filed against a second neighbor as of Monday. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials had no immediate comment on the status of the investigation. Aaron told Fox 11 in Los Angeles he was playing outside in his neighborhood when he walked over to the neighbors to say hello. At one point, the men called out his name. “They said my name, and then I turned and my hand flipped over, so that’s when they handed the firework to me,” Aaron said. “I was about to throw it and it exploded in my hand.” The explosion was so great, it rocked nearby cars, Fox 11 reported. >> Read more trending news The Times reported that Aaron was immediately taken to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where he underwent a series of emergency surgeries. Doctors at UC Irvine Medical Center attached his left arm to his stomach to hopefully preserve nerve and skin tissue they can use to reconstruct his hand. Aaron’s older sister, Adriana Carreto, said doctors also reattached the finger her brother lost on his right hand. Carreto wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help with Aaron’s medical expenses that he has a long recovery ahead, including at least two additional surgeries. Photos and video of the boy on the fundraising page, as well as on social media, show him with burns on his face and his left arm hidden under a hospital gown. Pain is etched on the boy’s face. “This incident changed his life, (his) way of living, but not his spirits,” Carreto wrote. “Everyone knows him as a social butterfly, always friendly to his teammates on the soccer team. He’s very caring and aware of other people’s needs.” Carreto wrote that her brother loves riding his bike with neighborhood friends and playing the popular online video game 'Fortnite' with classmates over their summer break. “Now with his new disability, he’ll find it difficult to adjust to his day to day lifestyle,” Carreto wrote. As of Monday afternoon, donors had raised more than $47,000 of the page's $50,000 goal to help Aaron and his family. Carreto said along with the physical pain her brother is in, he is also psychologically scarred. “He tells his family how he feels betrayed by those people around us and wants to start a new life far away from where he grew up,” Carreto wrote on the GoFundMe page. As of Monday, Aaron had been released from the hospital to continue his recovery at home. “I been reading all the positive and kind words to Aaron from his donors and he said he appreciates all the help and support,” Carreto wrote. “He said he feels happy with each and every one of you guys.” The distraught sister told ABC 7 she, however, is angry. “I’m angry because those two guys are adults and one of them has kids,” Carreto told the news station. “I’m pretty sure if it was his kid, he wouldn’t have let that happen.” Aaron told KTLA he wants to see both men punished for what they did to him. “Those guys who did this, I don’t want to see them no more,” Aaron told the news station. “I just wish that they could be in jail.” Revolorio remained Monday at the Los Angeles County Jail, where records show he is being held in lieu of $630,000 bond. The second neighbor accused in the incident has not been publicly identified.
  • President Trump continues his public criticism of House democrats Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. He tweets, “The “Squad” is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border...And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!” These comments come after President Trump last week said those four freshman House Democrats should 'go back to the crime infested places' from which they came. This also comes after a crowd at a Trump campaign rally in North Carolina chanted 'send her back.
  • A California woman and her boyfriend have been charged in connection with their newborn son’s death after investigators learned they strangled the boy at the hospital shortly after he was born, authorities said. Andrea Torralba, 20, and David Villa, 21, both of Oxnard, are being held in the Ventura County Jail on suspicion of felony assault on a child causing death, Oxnard Police Department officials said. Jail records show Villa, who is described as a field worker, is being held in lieu of $5 million. ABC 7 in Los Angeles reported that Torralba’s bail was set at $1 million. >> Read more trending news  Oxnard police investigators said officers were called just before 8 a.m. Friday to St. John’s Medical Center, where they learned a newborn boy was in critical condition with serious injuries. The boy was found unresponsive and despite all medical efforts, he died of his injuries. Detectives from the department’s Family Protection Unit learned that Torralba and Villa strangled the newborn until he lost consciousness, police officials said. Oxnard police Sgt. Brandon Ordelheide told ABC 7 that the couple, when questioned by detectives, admitted they did not want the baby. Both were arrested and charged in the boy’s death.
  • Police have apprehended an Ohio man accused of stabbing and setting fire to two women in a Willoughby Hills home before leaving with three young children, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  According to WEWS-TV, 27-year-old Allen Crawford bound, stabbed and burned the women – one of whom is the mother of his children – Saturday afternoon at the Willoughby Hills Towers, police said. He then fled the scene with the children, who are 2, 4 and 5 years old, authorities said. Shortly after 5 p.m., one woman broke free and called police, the TV station reported. Both women, who suffered critical injuries, were flown to a nearby hospital, authorities said. Crawford took the children to his mother's Cleveland home before turning himself in around 9 p.m., police told WEWS. All three were safe.  Information about what charges Crawford may face was not immediately available. Read more here.
  • A tropical wave churning off shore has a low chance of developing further into a tropical system this upcoming week. This system could potentially bring a surge in moisture to Florida.  Considering its position, movement and forward speed, this tropical wave is expected to be near or at our latitude by Tuesday.  As for Monday's forecast, WFTV Channel 9 meteorologist Brian Shields said there's 50 percent chance of scattered rain and storms, mainly in the afternoon. The high temperature will still be toasty, clocking in at 93. By Tuesday, the few models currently available forecast the tropical system to be parallel to Central Florida. How close to Central Florida will it be? That will all depend on the high pressure system over the Atlantic Ocean.  Currently, we are monitoring this wave closely. The wave seems to be moving fast toward Florida, not giving it time to further develop as it gets close to Florida. We can expect high rain chances to start the week, especially Tuesday.  Temperatures will remain seasonably hot, with highs in the low 90s and lows in the mid-70s.

Washington Insider

  • In a dramatic expansion of a process known as 'expedited removal' of illegal immigrants in the United States, the Trump Administration will start applying that everywhere in the United States - to anyone who has been in the U.S. illegally for less than two years - as critics quickly said they would challenge the change in federal court. 'The effect of that change will be to enhance national security and public safety,' the Department of Homeland Security states in a new rule set to go into effect on Tuesday, which the notice says will allow 'DHS to address more effectively and efficiently the large volume of aliens who are present in the United States unlawfully.' Up until this change, expedited removal was only used for illegal immigrants who were detained within 100 miles of the border - now it can be enforced anywhere in the U.S. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Trump Administration argues the Acting Homeland Security Secretary has the 'sole and unreviewable discretion' to change 'the scope of the expedited removal designation,' shifting it from the 100 mile policy to one that applies nationwide. Critics denounced the immigration policy change, with some vowing to challenge the move in court. 'One of the major problems with expedited removal is that the immigration officer making the decision virtually has unchecked authority,' said the American Immigration Council, as the process does not involve an immigration judge or any type of court hearing. 'We will sue to end this policy quickly,' said Omar Jadwat of the American Civil Liberties Union, who charged that deportations could occur with 'less due process than people get in traffic court.' 'This is a massive and dangerous change,' said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council, which is joining in the ACLU legal challenge to the new policy. The announcement marked the second straight week that the Trump Administration had rolled out a new immigration policy - last Monday, the feds announced a new plan to restrict asylum claims by migrants from Central America. Those plans are also facing a legal challenge from the ACLU and other groups.