New River Tenant Union organizer SNR provides this report on the recent purchase of Massie’s Trailer Park in Christiansburg, Virginia by a Wall Street financier and how it’s effecting local working families
Massie’s Mass Eviction and Alden Global Capital
Belview Elementary is a small Title I school only a short walk from Massie’s Mobile Home Park. Students are learning right now about monarch butterflies, dinosaurs, and Native Americans. They’re also learning how to eat in a cafeteria for the first time and how to say they’re sorry even when whatever happened was just an accident. It is a close-knit community. Half of the school buses that run to Belview come from Massie’s to bring students to and from school everyday.
Billie Massie bought the parcel of land the trailer park sits on in 1978 and began building Massie’s Mobile Home Park in 1984. Today, there are 174 units.
Last week, the tenants union I organize with, New River Tenants Union, got a call from a family who had what they thought was an eviction notice taped to their porch. When I got to work at Belview the next day, I discovered it wasn’t just this one family at Massie’s facing eviction– many of my students received notices on their porches.
Why is this happening?
In April of 2022, Massie’s Mobile Home Park sold for $16.85 million. This price is much higher than what the county assessed the value of land to be, which was $2,843,600 in 2022.
Billie Massie received $10 million for the land and $6.85 million for the buildings. The buyer hid behind a shell corporation, Massie MHP, LLC, and wasn’t publicly listed on the Notice of Sale. Tenants were given new rental documents to sign which included instructions for tenants to pay using a new online app or to send checks to a PO Box in New Jersey.
If you dig hard enough, you can find that the PO Box is operated by Tom Del Bosco, an executive officer of Alden Global and the Vice President of Smith Management, LLC.
Alden Global is a powerful hedge fund that’s gained notoriety recently for buying out many newspapers in the US. After the buyouts, Alden sold off the papers’ real estate holdings, cut staffing, and invested the remaining staff pensions into Alden’s own hedge fund. Alden is a global entity– they even have investments in Mechel, a Russian energy and steel company.
It’s clear that Alden is now buying up trailer parks all across the United States, from Indiana, to Florida, to Louisiana to funnel money to the PO Box in New Jersey, then transferred to Delaware’s Corporate Trust Center, and eventually to the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.
Since Del Bosco has acquired Massie’s, management has been using different tactics to charge tenants with more fees, while looking for any excuse to push tenants out.
The app tenants were instructed to use barely functions, and it has no contact information listing who they can reach out to for support.
The tenants are finding new charges that they can’t afford to pay– one tenant even showed me charges that have dates from months before he even moved into his trailer.
Tenants I talked to have found their HUD assistance checks are being returned to sender, and the park is saying they owe thousands in rent. One tenant got a notice that he would soon be evicted unless he paid $64.
Tenants have told me that Massie’s is the only place they could afford in the rough housing market of Christiansburg, where the cost of rent has exploded this past year.
Rent at Massie’s is in a range of around $400–$800. The living situation is not good, and tenants aren’t getting the help that they need to fix their trailers– with some trailers being 30 or 40 years old.
One tenant showed me how his bathroom floor was caving in. Another told me that half of the electricity in her trailer was out. Both live with children, and they had asked park management for these things to be fixed– but they have been ignored.
Instead, the management has sent out a long packet of new rules tenants must follow unless they want to incur more draconian fees or get evicted. One rule that stood out to me is that now tenants are only allowed to have one pet. What is going to happen to all those second dogs and cats?
Finance capitalism is killing life in America. Mass evictions are traumatizing children and further impoverishing working class families.
Without guaranteed home ownership and nationalized banking, wealthy executives like Tom Del Bosco will continue playing Monopoly with our lives. They will gut us for our money and throw our kids and our dogs out into the streets. We need to fight together, for our homes and for our future.
Are you at Massie’s and want to share your story with me? Reach out to email@example.com