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Posts Tagged ‘manufactured housing’

Image: Nations Online Project.
At an unnamed trailer park in Northern Virginia, residents help one another.

One recent morning as I returned from my walk, I was stopped by a woman even older than me walking slowly with a cane. She wanted directions to the hospital, apparently to visit a patient. “But,” I said, “you can’t walk there! It’s over a mile!” “I have to get to the hospital,” she said.

After trying unsuccessfully to come up with other transportation options for her (my own car was in the shop), I gave her directions and off she went. I hope she made it. Sometimes women are beyond amazing.

In August, Theresa Vargas at the Washington Post, wrote about how a group of immigrant women turned a manufactured-housing park into a real community.

“The heat was unforgiving and the mosquitoes were biting, but the women who filled the foldout chairs in Imelda Castro’s backyard didn’t seem bothered. During the pandemic, that small strip of greenery tucked behind a Northern Virginia trailer park has been a haven for them. It has served as a classroom, an office and a community play space.

“That backyard is where the women learned from a health-care worker what medical services their children are entitled to receive. That backyard is where a DJ played music on Día del Niño, Day of the Child, and the community invited a police officer to take a swing at a piñata. ‘She had never hit one before!’ said a woman who captured that moment on video. That backyard is where, every Friday, the women form an assembly line and empty with impressive efficiency a truck filled with fresh produce and other goods, and then make sure everyone in the trailer park who needs food gets it.

“ ‘If we didn’t have this community we’ve built, we’d be very vulnerable,’ Rosalia Mendoza said in Spanish as she sat in one of those foldout chairs. ‘We’re united, and it makes us stronger. What affects one trailer affects the whole community.’ …

“That’s why the women want people to know what they’ve created in that trailer park on Route 1. From a shared struggle, they have built something special — a network of moms who regularly check on one another, inform one another and push one another.

To spend time with those moms is to recognize this: Alone, some could find themselves drowning. But together, they’ve been able to do more than tread water.

“ ‘This is unique,’ Patricia Moreno said of the community. ‘This is not everywhere.’

“Moreno has spent the last two decades as an outreach worker for Anthem HealthKeepers Plus, a job that takes her into low-income communities throughout Northern Virginia to teach residents about their Medicaid benefits. Her fluency in Spanish and willingness to go into even the most neglected of neighborhoods has made her a welcome presence among Latino immigrants who don’t trust easily authority figures.

“Moreno first learned about the women when one of them, Ana Delia Romero, called to ask whether she could come speak to them about health care. …

“The population of the trailer park is one that nonprofit workers often worry about. The majority of the residents are immigrants from Central and South America, and their families are tied to the local economy by threads that are usually among the first to be severed during economic downturns. Most of the men work in construction and restaurant jobs, two industries that were hit hard during the pandemic, and many of the women don’t work because of a lack of access to transportation and child care. In the last few years, several families have gone weeks without income, and some have faced eviction.

“Moreno said many people in the communities she visits are hesitant to ask for help, or accept it, but these mothers have worked hard to turn their trailer park into a village. They watch one another’s children. They give one another rides. They invite people to come teach them about subjects that will benefit their families and their neighbors. …

“ ‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I’ve never seen a system like this,’ Moreno said.

“On the day I visited, she sat with eight of the women in the foldout chairs. Also there was Ivana Escobar, director of collective impact for United Community, a nonprofit that provides food to the trailer park and support to the women.

“ ‘We go to every community in this area,’ Escobar said, ‘and these women have made something stronger than anywhere else.’

“As the women tell it, Ana Delia Romero, who is partially blind, is the one who started bringing them together. She was the first person in the community to test positive for the coronavirus, and she ended up in the hospital for six days. After she recovered, she started volunteering with the Health Department. She knew many Latinos were hesitant to learn about the virus and the safety precautions they could take, and she wanted to help get that information to more people.

“She also wanted to make sure none of her neighbors was going hungry during the pandemic. She got involved with free food-distribution efforts and started knocking on her neighbors’ doors to ask whether they had enough to eat. …

“Escobar said that Romero asked United Community whether a truck could deliver food to the trailer park, and now, a truck comes every Friday. When it arrives, the women unload the contents and distribute them. On the day I met the women, all but one were wearing a United Community T-shirt. Escobar said they don’t get paid by the organization. They handle the food distribution as volunteers.

“ ‘The women here, they mobilized themselves,’ Escobar said. ‘You wouldn’t even know they’re struggling because of how they show up.’ …

“ ‘When Ana asked, “Who wants to volunteer?” the answer was “Me, me, me,” ‘ Elizabeth Villatoro said. ‘This community doesn’t have excuses. Ana doesn’t say, “I lost my vision, I can’t do anything.” Alberta doesn’t say, “I have children with special needs, I can’t do anything.” We do what we need to do.’ “

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: Sarah Matusek/
The Christian Science Monitor.
The Animas View MHP Co-op in Durango, Colorado, sits above the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It is one of six resident-owned manufactured housing communities in Colorado.

In the world of affordable housing, the trailer park traditionally got no respect. Until now. When residents cooperatively buy the land under them, self-esteem is one of the many benefits.

Sarah Matusek writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “One sunny, cold morning last January, John Egan joined fellow mobile home park residents on a neighbor’s front porch. They needed to organize. But how? 

“ ‘I had to go to the restroom, and when I came back from the restroom, they said, “Hi! You’re president!” ‘ recalls Mr. Egan.

“The half-dozen folks had convened to think through how to buy their Durango, Colorado, park from the private landlord – a move Mr. Egan and others deemed a shot in the dark. But now they at least had a president for what would become an interim board. With guidance from a housing nonprofit and majority support from the community, residents succeeded in purchasing the roughly 15-acre property within five months. They celebrated with a picnic, as the new Animas View MHP Co-op joined some thousand other resident-owned communities countrywide. …

“The resident-owned market constitutes just 2.4% of manufactured housing communities nationwide. Bolstering the health and longevity of mobile home parks is important as they are a critical source of affordable housing, say industry experts. Recent legislation in Colorado offers some provisions for communities like Animas View that hope to secure their future by governing themselves.

‘Everybody sleeps better at night,’ says Steve Boardman, here for 20 years, as he takes out his recycling. ‘We’re in control.’

“River, mountains, grasses bleached blonde in autumn – the Durango mobile homes have a million-dollar view. Largely immobile and costly to move, these factory-built units have been commonly called ‘manufactured homes’ since 1976. They house an estimated 18 million to 22 million people in the United States. …

“The median annual household income of these homeowners – $35,000 – is half that of site-built homeowners, according to Fannie Mae. Manufactured housing fills 6.3% of U.S. housing stock, with more than double that share in rural areas.

“Many residents own their homes but not the underlying land, for which they pay ‘lot rent.’ That model can spur financial precarity: These homeowners are ‘more likely to see their homes depreciate and have fewer protections if they fall behind on payments,’ reports the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

“Media reports have increasingly shed light on private-sector purchases of these parks that often result in rent increases, which housing advocates deem predatory. 

“Mobile home park investor Frank Rolfe counters: ‘When we buy these properties, they’re often in terrible condition, and [we] bring them back to life. … You can’t bring old properties back to life without raising rents.’

“Mr. Rolfe estimates that he and a partner are the fifth largest owners of U.S. mobile home parks. ‘There is this conception I think out there that park owners are in some way hostile to residents buying their own communities, and that is completely off base,’ says Mr. Rolfe, co-founder of Colorado-based Mobile Home University, which trains investors to purchase parks. Three parks he co-owned have been sold to residents.

“Mr. Egan and his wife, Cate Smock, bought their trailer here in 2012 – an affordable move to Durango so their son could attend a better school. But afterward, they saw their lot rent, which includes utilities, increase annually, if not twice a year. … Animas View residents also complained of the previous owner’s lack of attention to their needs and delayed repairs.

“Shortly before Christmas 2020, residents learned that the latest landlord, Strive Communities, intended to sell. Residents began to organize almost immediately. …

“ ‘We don’t tell people that it’s easy’ to become resident-owned, says Mike Bullard, communications and marketing manager for ROC USA, a New Hampshire nonprofit that, along with its affiliates, reports having helped nearly 300 manufactured housing communities become resident-owned. (ROC stands for resident-owned communities.) …

“In Colorado, the network affiliate Thistle ROC helped the Durango cooperative patch together funding for their purchase. But to afford the financing, the co-op increased lot rent by $80 this fall (rent ranges between $755 and $825). While the uptick may seem counterintuitive, it’s not uncommon, says Mr. Bullard. 

“ ‘These groups are buying not just the real estate, but the business,’ he says, adding that lot rent for new resident-owned communities will typically drop down to market rate or below within five years. …

“ ‘One of the first things that we decided when we met as a board was that we would not allow anybody to be forced out of the park because of an inability to pay the rent,’ says former board president Mr. Egan. …

“To ensure folks can afford to stay, the community is developing a rental assistance fund. In addition to seeking outside funding, some residents plan to donate spare dollars themselves.”

More at the Monitor, here. By the way, this all started with New Hampshire’s Community Loan Development Fund, here. I published several articles from them when I worked at the Boston Fed.

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