Thursday, October 27, 2016

Redevelopment Plans Claim Another Mobile Home Park; Lot-Leasing Homeowners Begin With Efforts To Transport Movable Homes While Older Structures End Up Demolished In Place In Advance Of March 15 Deadline; Possible Fair Housing Act Claim May Be Last Hope For Remaining Residents

In St. Anthony, Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio reports:
  • The Lowry Grove mobile home park in St. Anthony, Minn., has been open for more than 70 years, but residents are hunkering down now for what may be the park's last winter.

    The yards have filled with falling leaves, the streets are pocked with puddles, and the number of gaping holes where mobiles homes once stood is growing.

    In June, a developer, The Village, purchased the park and issued a closure notice, giving residents until March 15 to move out. Slowly, the park is emptying: The Village has struck deals with 38 of the 95 homeowners to relocate. Their homes have either been towed away to other parks, or — if they're too old to be moved — they've been demolished in place.

    The new gaps in the tight rows of homes look like pulled teeth, and the view has been shocking for some long-time residents who are still fighting the park's sale and closure.

    "You come home and your neighbor is gone," Antonia Alvarez said of the demolitions.

    Alvarez, who has lived in the park for 10 years, has led the residents' fight against redevelopment. They've tried every tactic they know: Fundraising, letter-writing, protests — a lawsuit.(1)

    Minnesota state law gives mobile home park residents the right to purchase a park to prevent its closure — but when Lowry Grove residents attempted to do that, their purchase agreement was turned down. In response, they filed a lawsuit to insist on their right to buy it — but a judge ruled that even if there was wrongdoing involved in the deal, the sale would not be reversed. Residents then appealed to St. Anthony's City Council, which, by law, must hold a public hearing to confirm the park's closure.

    [A]fter two hours of emotional testimony from park residents, the council voted to proceed with the closure process. Mayor Jerry Faust said it wasn't within their power do anything differently, because it was a private business transaction.
    In accordance with state law, the council appointed a neutral third party who can now act as a resource for the soon-to-be-displaced residents and walk them through applying for funds from the Minnesota Manufactured Home Relocation Trust Fund.
    Even after the wrenching council hearing, though, Alvarez and other residents have not given up. And they may have a new ally in the federal government.

    John Meade, an enforcement branch chief for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, issued a letter last week saying that HUD would investigate the park's closure as a violation of the Fair Housing Act. The complaint has not been officially filed, but Meade's letter asked that the developer "refrain from taking further action to effect the removal of residents from Lowry Grove during the pendency of the investigation."

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