Originally published August 25, 2022 (here)
By David Linton
The Sun Chronicle
ATTLEBORO — Democratic candidate for state attorney general Shannon Liss-Riordan had a roundtable discussion Thursday with residents of Sandcastle Estates, literally around a round table.
Residents of the mobile home park for people over age 55 on Mendon Road in South Attleboro told Liss-Riordan about the steep rent increases they have been forced to pay with fixed incomes.
Liss-Riordan, 53, a class-action employment lawyer from Brookline, said she came to learn the residents’ concerns and what the attorney general’s office can do to help them.
She said she wants to learn about the issue because multi-state corporations are snapping up mobile home parks across the country and raising the rents on residents who are on fixed incomes.
“We have an affordable housing crisis” in the state, Liss-Riordan said, adding that there are housing laws on the books that need to be enforced.
Manufactured homes like in Sandcastle Estates “could be a model for affordable housing across the state. It just needs to be made to work better,” she said.
“This is an issue that definitely needs attention,” Liss-Riordan said.
There are 172 homes in the park and 225 residents. The residents own their homes and pay for the upkeep of their yards but do not own the land.
State Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, who has endorsed Liss-Riordan, has been working with residents of the park and was part of the roundtable discussion.
Hawkins has sponsored legislation that would allow communities to create oversight commissions to make sure rent and lease agreements comply with state law and that any rent increases are justified.
Hawkins said many residents of the park moved there to be close to their children and live out their retirement, and cannot afford the steep rent increases on fixed incomes.
“Their savings are there,” he said with a wave of his hand in the direction of the homes in the park. “You can’t just pack up and go.”
Joyce Fox, vice president of the homeowners association, said she was a “tenant at will,” paying month to month, and saw her rent jump from $442 to $610 a month.
The residents tried to buy the park last year but the proposal was voted down 108-32 in the face of a staggering rent increase that would be needed to pay a mortgage of nearly $19 million.
The park was purchased by Crow Holdings, headquartered in Dallas with an office in Boston, from Legacy Communities earlier this year for nearly $18.8 million.
Legacy bought Sandcastle in January 2019 for $13.35 million at a time when the property was assessed for $3.1 million. At the time of the sale, the assessed value was $9,827,300.
Liss-Riordan has represented waitresses, truck drivers, taxi cab drivers, ride share drivers and janitors in court and has poured $3 million of her own money into her campaign for attorney general.
She was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democratic Sen. Edward Markey.
In the race for state attorney general, she is running in the fall primary against Andrea Campbell, a former Boston city councilor and Quentin Palfrey, a former assistant attorney general.