Vulture Capitalism and You: A Primer

Recently, in one of our home states, the news media has been abuzz with two tales of two cities.

One of these stories is of how long-time residents were pushing back in Bismarck (Burleigh County), North Dakota, against the possibility of a WHOPPING 25 refugees being resettled there by Lutheran Social Services. Previously, Fargo (Cass County), N.D., had voted to continue resettlement unabated.

For reference, the metropolitan population of Bismarck (Bismarck, Mandan, Lincoln and 48 smaller outlying rural towns) was 132,678 at the end of 2019. Fargo Metro (Fargo, West Fargo, Moorhead, Minn. and Dilworth, Minn.) stood at 245,471 at the same time. Basically, a little less than half of the state’s now-record 750,000 people in two metro areas, even when you figure in the Minnesotans.

The other of these stories is about how residents of several trailer courts in Bismarck and neighboring Lincoln were bought up by an out-of-state investment firm, which told residents not to worry and then promptly gave them a whole shitload of things to worry about.

And if Mean Ol’ Publius knows one thing, it’s that when some outta town business comes in, buys the land your domicile sets on and then says “Don’t worry,” it’s time to keep an eye on your back and a hand on your wallet…

In the aggregate, these stories are exactly the same. Superficially and cosmetically they seem worlds apart, but that’s the trick of modern narratives as told through the 24-hour news cycle.

Both stories include haves and have-nots. They both include people trying to work their way up. They both involve people being kicked in the face by capitalism, which is becoming more and more bold by the day. And they both involve, at their core, an undeniable impression that an injustice hasn’t just been done, that the injustice is still happening.

You can blame Pres. Donald J. Trump if you like, but it’s been happening far longer than he’s been alive. His administration has nothing to do with these new symptoms. Well, not the trailer court ones, anyway. For refugees, yep he’s ABSOLUTELYto blame.

We will not yet go into our take on the refugee resettlement issue. Suffice it to say, the last four-hour meeting of the Burleigh County Commission heard the usual negatives mixed in with heartfelt and objective statements from pro-refugee narratives, and put Bismarck on the map again after previous national headlines were made during The Bakken Oil Boom and the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest.

You may remember the latter from our writing about it in the past. For those who missed it, the short version: TransCanada and their Security Goon Squad ran a PsyOp on the people of North Dakota and the protestors water protectors, which ended up escalating things far beyond where activities normally would have gone. This allowed law enforcement to intervene and begin their own escalation. This PsyOp, led by self-described former members of the U.S. Special Operations community working as said Goon Squad, ended up costing the state $24 million.

Anyhoo, the Washington Post and LA Times (and always-entertaining Flickertail Times) had significant reports on the refugee thing. You can guess at the narratives so we’ll leave that to you until such time we want to opine.

So that leaves us with the trailer courts. Now, once upon a time some of us lived in the courts (although not those listed). None of us has been a refugee, although we have written about them elsewhere in the past and in general are sympathetic to them because A) We have hearts and B) We have brains.

Didn’t even cost us that much to acquire them…

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The trailer courts in question were purchased by a Utah-based outfit named Havenpark Capital, which is a name that sets our spidey-senses a-tingling. “Haven-park” and “Capital” don’t seem to jibe well together, but hey, part and parcel of 21st Century Capitalism is being so privileged in your venture that you can tell people your murder group is named “Friendly Faces, LLC” and they’ll subscribe to your mailing list.

Our paranoia toward all things related to Vulture Capitalism ended up discovering a treasure trove of news stories from the past few years.

See, it seems that the Intrepid Heroes and Job Creators (PEACE BE UPON THEM) at Havenpark Capital have been running this scam across numerous sites and numerous locations. Because in this era, there is only the Cash Grab.

It wasn’t only happening in Bismarck and Lincoln. It was also happening in Fargo.

That whole “Don’t worry about us making changes” intro that Havenpark’s PR team sent to the residents turned out to be lot rents that increased by around 8-10% to $400-415 a month, as well as new utility fees separate from new individual water and sewer payments. Previously, the utility costs were figured into the lot rent rates.

For them what don’t know, that’s basically doubling the cost of living in these trailer courts, which are largely the first step toward home ownership for people on lower rungs of the economic ladder – either them starting their careers/families or those living on fixed incomes. Or, say those who couldn’t afford Bismarck’s rapidly increasing home prices which had seen bungalows worth $80,000 in 2007 selling for $160,000 in 2015, and $170,000 ranch style homes selling for $250,000 within the same time frame. Estimates varied based on the real estate website of choice, but they provided a range of median home prices of about $275,000 for the area for 2020. Census data gets a more verifiable number at $234,500 for 2014-2018, compared to $204,000 nationally for the same period.

So, housing prices are higher than national averages even while the population is among the lowest in the nation. How do?

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In this timeline’s America, the answer is always the same: Bones or clams or whatever you call them. You’re gonna need a lot of them if you live in the trailer courts, but if you live in the trailer courts, you probably don’t have a lot to begin with. Catch-22 isn’t just for war anymore.

Havenpark’s PR Team countered the “misinformation campaign” by noting that trailer court lots fees were typically one-third of apartment rent in the surrounding area. What they didn’t want to talk about – or likely even take into account – was the fact that all of those had skyrocketed in the past decade thanks to the influx of oil money.

You may have remembered once upon a time when Williston, the hub of activity for oil drilling in the region, posted rental rates higher than New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. That shit has a ripple effect, yo. It takes time, but like an A-bomb the fallout comes to rest on areas far beyond ground zero.

What else could go wrong with these outta staters coming in and implementing new rules and regulations in the Land of the Free & Home of the Brave? You should know better than to ask that…

They’re banning certain dogs.

Fucking Mormons, man, we tell you what.

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For funsies, we looked them up on Better Business Bureau, where we discovered – GASP! – that Havenpark Communities isn’t just not accredited by the BBB, that they had a rating of 1.5 stars and had received 14 complaints in the past year alone.

“But wait, Publius, you just wrote Havenpark Communities and up above you clearly wrote Havenpark Capital!” you bleat.

“Yes, you can read,” we respond surprisingly. That differentiated naming is a trick of the trade. See, Utah Secretary of State lists four different business entities with “Havenpark” in their name: Havenpark Capital Partners, Havenpark Communities, Havenpark Management, and Havenpark Residential Management. All of them filed as LLCs (which serves as a shield against individual lawsuits targeting principals), all of them registered to the same address – 51 W CENTER ST STE 600 OREM, UT 84057, three of them having the North American Industry Classification System title “5313-Activities Related to Real Estate,” and three of them sharing the same registered agent Worldwide Solutions, LLC.

The two changes were in Havenpark Communities, whose agent is listed as Rocket Lawyer Corporate Services LLC (but has the NAICS Title: 5313), and the other is Havenpark Management, whose agent is Worldwide Solutions LLC but whose NAICS Title is 5419-Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services. This distinction is likely one that carries with it some self-dealing. While the other three entities are more focused on either 1) direct handling of the real estate properties, 2) grouping them together as bundled investments and/or to negotiate better deals for materials due to economies-of-scale; or 3) packaging those bundles for a hedge fund; the 5419 title might suggest that they always do their own in-house maintenance, upgrades and other “handyman service,” in which case they’d be able to guarantee costs because they’re setting them without pressure from externalities. This word of the day is: cartel.

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Business idea: We bring back Pee Wee’s Playhouse, but he’s only going to discuss Late Stage Capitalism. All proceeds would go toward production of a second television series called G-Team’s G-Teen, where a plucky group of nobodies travels the wasteland bringing guillotine justice to Fat Cat Capitalists. Call us, Disney+, you still know the number.

The free, public trail of information stops there, but a for a few $$$ you can purchase the records from the Utah SoS via secure credit card transaction. If we ever fire up the GoFundMe and monetize this site, that’s what the money will go toward. For now, the trail stops at the paywall.

So, are you confused yet? You should be, not because you’re actually that dumb, but because that’s why they (Havenpark’s principals) went through all the trouble of creating four shell companies essentially doing the same business under two different (we shall see) registered agents.

“But don’t worry!” their friendly PR Firm reminds residents. “This type of thing happens in business, don’t you worry none, hear?”

The shakedown didn’t start in North Dakota, that’s just the latest region to experience it. See, Iowa had seen similar happenings hitting its trailer courts, as reported by the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press Citizen. Want to see a mob-like shakedown tactic in real-life life, as performed by a Mormon hedge fund that manages real estate assets? Check this shit out:

Rent will be going up to protect our community,” the letter [from Havenpark Capital] says. “If the rent did not go up, the land where Midwest Country Estates sits today would have been more valuable if it were changed into apartments, or a large retail store, causing all of our residents to be evicted.”

In other words, YOU SHOULD FEEL LUCKY THAT WE CONTINUE ALLOWING YOU TO LIVE HERE INSTEAD OF KICKING YOUR POOR ASSES TO THE CURB AND PUTTING UP A STRIP MALL.

You might say that this is looking like an Established Pattern of Misbehavior. And you’d be fuckin right, Right, RIGHT!

Like, elsewhere in Iowa: Havenpark resumes mobile home park acquisition binge

Or just a bit north, in Hastings, Minnesota, hey!: New Three Rivers’ Owner Raises Tenant Concerns

A little further north, in Waite Park: Not enough affordable housing? What about mobile homes?

And in Detroit, WHAT!: Protect the vulnerable from rent hikes (second entry)

And the always-entertaining and completely-unsurprising allegations re-published over at Bleeding Heartland that Havenpark’s people are or were part of a multilevel marketing business (read: pyramid scheme) concerning dietary supplements and personal care items. That business, called Nu Skin, was listed as one of Orem’s top businesses on a wiki search, and pulled up 27 different reveals on Utah’s Secretary of State business records search.

“And what’s it all for?” you ask again, visibly shaking.

MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY!

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The top 50 manufactured housing community owners together own 680,000 home sites — a 26% increase between 2016 and 2018, according to data from the National Manufactured Home Owners’s Manufactured Housing Institute. The authors of the report note that the need to produce greater profits is leading to cost increases for park residents nationwide

The “need to produce greater profits…” That’s all it’s ever been about, and by now you should have been struck by the fact that it’s all it’s ever going to be. The older profit margins weren’t enough, see, not in the era of the Cash Grab. Maybe, just maybe, once we’ve been allowed to trust-bust Tech, Defense, Pharma and Fossil Fuels, we can go after these housing monopolies.

Back in Bismarck and Des Moines, lawmakers and local manufactured home builders were starting to get involved. Our spidey-senses tell us that it wasn’t so much out of the goodness of their hearts as much as it was that local power brokers HATE it when outsiders come in and upset the balance of The Racket (TM).

Regardless, here’s hoping that some pressure can be applied on behalf of these trailer court residents because the little guy in America needs a fuckin win, and bad. If it comes at major cost to these game-playing fat cats hiding behind shell companies, then all the better.

After all, it’s called Vulture Capitalism because it swoops around for a while until it finds a meal that can’t fight back, and goddammit but it’s going to be entertaining when it underestimates its next would-be prey.

One comment

  1. […] Household debt has increased even as more households faced bankruptcy and evictions than ever and THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH. More Americans are working multiple jobs than ever, and, oh yeah, 50% of them 60% […]

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