As the real estate bubble of recent years continues to burst, people who own homes on Forest Service land may end up paying high prices affected by the bubble for the next decade.
Recently, Forest Service staff held a meeting for the 335 people who own houses on Forest land in the Eastern Sierra. These owners have cabins in the Mammoth Area, June Lake Area, Big Pine Creek and others. The cabins are privately owned, but the land underneath the cabins is owned by the Forest Service. The cabin owners have to pay an annual permit fee for that land.
That permit fee is set at 5% of the value of the land without the house. Forest Service officials explained that every ten years the land value is re- appraised to calculate the permit fee.
When the Forest Service re-appraised the land in 2007, while the market was still high, the permit fees were set to be re-adjusted upward as land values had more then doubled since the last time the land was appraised. One man that we spoke to says that the fee his family currently pays for a cabin in the Mammoth area is about $1000 a year, but now could go as high as $4000 a year.
Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch explained under the existing rules, the new fees wont go into effect until 2011. There are also rules built into the system that allow homeowners to request a second appraisal of property value.
Mary Clarke Ver Hoef, with the National Forest Homeowners Association, explained that the appraisals of the property value do not take into account the many restrictions imposed on the permit holder. The permit fees have broken the market, she explained, adding that in some areas the fees are so high that owners cant sell their cabins.
The current rules that set the permit fees, were laid out by Congress. The National Forest Homeowners Association is now seeking new Congressional action to change the rules.