I was notified by my good colleague Jo Egelhoff of FoxPolitics.Net of the closure of the April Aire Mobile Home Park in Appleton. That was my home the last five years I lived in Appleton before I relocated to the Madison Area in 2003 as I began my college years at Madison Area Technical College and UW-Madison. First, I feel for the families who are struggling in this tough time and my thoughts and prayers are with them. Second, I really feel that the the residents of that mobile home park do not deserve to go through the pain they are feeling of losing their homes, but they had to pay the price for the total irresponsibility of Richard Hassell a landlord who basically proved by his actions that he was incompetent to be an landlord. ay a mortgage for the property you own. Do not blame the sub-prime crisis on why April Aire closed, but first a landlord who would not even care to pay the mortgage. For Hassell to refuse to pay the mortagage on the property shows a total disrespect to the tenants he served. Basically, if Hassell had a property in the City of Milwaukee, the City of Milwaukee would shut him down quick. Milwaukee is known for being tough on landlords despite aldermanic privlige in some districts. Second, Hassell threatened to evict tenats if they complained to him of problems with their homes, even if the tenats felt they were living in sub standard conditions. At the time I lived there, the house I had major problems with the thermostat, and yes my family even took issue with it with Hassell, but he responded “You think there is a problem, don’t complain to me or move out.” That was his attitude that he did not care to solve problems that were growing in the mobile home park. But, close to six years removed from living there and now living in Milwaukee as a proud Big Ten Conference Graduate, I am am very fortunate to get out at the right time, and in return did something positive in which gave me a better life today in Milwaukee. After looking at the Post-Crescent Coverage of the problems that ballooned out at April Aire since 2007, it is the irresponsibility of Richard Hassell in which these families were negatively portrayed by media, and put a lot of political embarassment in the Town of Grand Chute.
But, I must give credit to Attorney Jessica Van Lieshout representing Propsera Credit Union who took the challenge by the horns and trying to solve the problem without even quitting or giving up. Some tenants may not liked her according to accounts in the media coverage, but it is because there were tenants that did not want to change or live up to the new rules. That is because Van Lieshout responded from the Grand Chute Task Force on April Aire in which there were disproportionally increasing police calls including drugs and disorderly conduct, increasing substandard living conditions, and many other problems that really put a lot of negative attention on the Town of Grand Chute. Van Lieshout even went beyond the box to collaborate with the Appleton and Fox Valley Communities to support the people that lived in April Aire. That is something we need more of our leaders is to collaborate to solve problems and attempt to find solutions. A key problem that landlords fail to solve is solving tenant issues, especially with those who own slum ridden properties. It is happening in Milwaukee, it happens with college kids in Madison who can be prey to bad landlords, and hard to believe if nothing gets addressed by local elected officals it will get worse in the Fox Valley.
The tenants who had to move out on Monday were the victims of Hassell’s personal irresponsibility to manage a manufactured housing community, especially with the large number of low middle class people that lived there. Yes, there should be a need for housing for low income people, but still we need to instill personal responsibility in these people to make sure they live productive lives. There is a four year wait for subsidized housing in Outagamie County, but still if we were to give these people help in the mean time from the Outagamie County Housing Authority, we must not hand out these benefits like candy and make people dependent on welfare subsidized housing. That means having a requirement for people to stay employed to get benefits. Tommy Thompson’s welfare reforms are the cornerstone of this mantra. But lastly, if we want to have affordable housing for people that need it in the Fox Valley, then we put landlords to a higher standard. A higher standard in which we do not have to see more landlords like Richard Hassell inflict the same pain the families of April Aire are facing today.