Real estate investment trust Equity LifeStyle Properties’ founder and chairman, Sam Zell, can add a new epithet to his list, which includes ‘failed newspaperman’ and, perhaps most famously, ‘Grave Dancer’—he’s now being called a grandma gouger, reports Crain’s.
Zell’s company, ELS, owns or has ownership interest in nearly 400 resort communities across the United States, most of which are in retirement-friendly areas like Florida, California, and Arizona. Many of the communities are age-qualified, and the REIT is the nation’s largest mobile-home park owner.
Last Tuesday, a group of protestors gathered outside of ELS’s headquarters, located in Chicago’s West Loop, during the company’s annual meeting to “urge ELS executives and directors… to stop ‘unreasonable rent increases’ that they say have left residents of ELS-owned housing communities—many of whom are retirees—with nothing,” Crain’s reports.
“(The demonstration) is the first step we see in a campaign to help the directors of ELS understand that there are other ways to do business than gouging grandma,” said Ishbel Dickens, executive director of Seattle-based Manufactured Home Owners Association of America, which organized the demonstration with Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Community Change. “We hope to start a dialogue.”
The protesters argue that Equity LifeStyle has fought rent-control ordinances in some communities it owns, driving up their housing costs and depressing the value of their homes.
Bob Lamonica, a 61-year-old resident of an Equity LifeStyle park in Santa Cruz, Calif., said that shortly after he and his wife moved into the community in 2002, the company sued the city, challenging its rent-control ordinance. Ultimately the city decided to avoid a lengthy court battle, a move that “threw 230 families under the bus,” according to Mr. Lamonica. As a result, he said he and his wife were forced into a non-transferable 34-year lease that, despite keeping rent for the lot at an affordable level, essentially trapped them in their home and made it all but impossible to sell.
Read the full article at Chicago Real Estate Daily.
Written by Alyssa Gerace