Friday, May 19, 2017

Oregon Affordable Housing Non-Profit Saves Troubled Mobile Home Park From Shutdown; Buys Out Landlord, Announces Improvement Plans To Stabilize Aging Premises For Low-Income Lot-Leasing Homeowners

In Saginaw, Oregon, The Register-Guard reports:
  • The low-income residents of Saginaw Trailer Park have a new landlord, one that is planning to improve living conditions in the long-troubled manufactured home park.

    The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County on Friday [May 5] purchased the 14-acre property with manufactured homes and recreational vehicles for $1.35 million from Michael Brown of Oakland.

    The nonprofit agency expects to spend another $1.8 million or so on renovating the park, bringing the estimated total investment in the property to $3.15 million, spokesman Paul Neville said Monday.

    The Saginaw Trailer Park is off Highway 99, about three miles north of Cottage Grove. Neville wasn’t sure how many people live there, but he said 40 of the 41 mobile homes and RVs are occupied.

    St. Vincent de Paul plans to make extensive improvements, including constructing a community center with a playground and replacing dilapidated living units, Neville said.

    “Our aim is to first stabilize things and keep this park in existence,” he said. “Over time, we incrementally will bring in new mobile home units. We have to inspect the (existing) units, and we have to talk to people. We have to figure out who has title to the units, because some are park-owned and some are tenant-owned. There is just a lot to be done.”

    St. Vincent de Paul will bring social workers to the park to meet with residents to help them “through this transition, and to provide general assistance in helping to improve their quality of life,” Neville said.

    Saginaw is the sixth mobile home park in Lane County acquired by St. Vincent de Paul. Other agency-owned parks include the Garfield Apartments and Trailer Park in Eugene, Harwoods Mobile Manor north of Eugene’s Santa Clara area, the Hillcrest and Oakridge mobile home parks in Oakridge, and the Tivoli Mobile Home Park in Junction City.

    The Eugene-based nonprofit agency also is acquiring the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park in northeast Portland.

    “Affordable housing is in short supply everywhere in this state, particularly in rural areas,” SVDP Executive Director Terry McDonald said. “We need to take advantage of every opportunity to protect and preserve mobile home parks, which are a vitally important — and endangered — source of affordable housing.”

    The Saginaw Trailer Park’s previous managers had been fined by the state Department of Environmental Quality for failing to maintain the septic sewer system and improperly dumping ­partially treated sewage.

    Previous owners resisted Lane County orders to clean up the property and to obtain building and electrical permits, St. Vincent de Paul said.

    On at least two occasions, the county ordered that the park be closed because of violations, but previous owners managed to avoid closure, according to the agency.

    McDonald said the park’s troubled past is one reason the agency bought it. St. Vincent de Paul’s recent park acquisitions have been aimed at providing residents with better, safer places to live, he said.

    Three years ago, SVDP bought the 63-space Oakridge Mobile Home Park. Before St. Vincent de Paul purchased the park, it was the source of more than half the police calls in Oakridge, McDonald said. Since then, the number of crime reports has dropped from an average of four a day to three or four a month, he said.

    St. Vincent de Paul is paying for the Saginaw Trailer Park purchase and renovation through funding from the Oregon Housing and Community Services Manufactured Park Preservation Program, a loan from the Network Oregon Affordable Housing and a grant from the Affordable Housing Program.

    The park also will get a new office, roads, signs and lighting, Neville said. Construction is expected to start in the fall, he said.

    Saginaw Trailer Park residents will not face a rent increase in the first year, Neville said. After that, “modest rent increases” are likely, he said. “Part of our goal is to keep rents low and affordable,” Neville said. “We are in the business of providing affordable housing.”

    Oregon has about 130,000 mobile homes, he said. Most of the mobile homes are antiquated, but many occupants cannot afford to live in more expensive types of housing, Neville said.

    For a lot of these people, there is no other option, and the next step is homelessness,” he said. “It’s important to keep this sort of affordable housing.”