Saturday, August 26, 2017

Crumbling Infrastructure Forces Shutdown Of 180-Lot, City-Owned Mobile Home Park, Leaves Many Lot-Leasing Homeowners Nearing Homelessness As Houses (Many With Existing Mortgages) Are Too Old To Either Be Safely Moved Or Accepted By Other Parks

In Calgary, Alberta, the Calgary Sun reports:
  • Debby Kok had tears in her eyes as she watched crews slowly lift her home from its foundations.

    Neatly clad in pink siding and a pleasingly coordinated grey shingle roof, her mobile home sat precariously atop wooden cribbing as workers bolted in place a double-axle set of temporary trailer wheels Wednesday afternoon [August 16].

    "This was our home for 13 years," sighed Kok — the latest resident of Midfield Mobile Home Park to pull up stakes ahead of next month's mandatory move-out date.

    "It was supposed to be our home forever. It was our retirement — our place to live until we died or had to go into an old folks' home."

    It was a little over two years ago when residents of the central Calgary trailer court were blindsided by notices that began appearing on doors: due to crumbling infrastructure, the 180-lot property was to be closed permanently — and everybody had until Sept. 30, 2017, to vacate.

    With a little under six weeks left to go, some residents are still finding it hard to move out.

    As Kok wipes her eyes, she talks of the work she and her husband lovingly put into their home over the years, including new windows, siding, a roof and extensive interior renovations.

    Unable to find space in any local parks, Kok was forced to sell.

    Motioning towards her home — now secured on the back of a transport truck — she takes some comfort knowing it'll be a safe and loving home for the family set to move in once it reaches its new destination.

    But for now, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

    "On the other hand, we're also very lucky because we were able to sell it," she said.

    "We were able to get out with being able to pay the mortgage off, but not everybody here is in that position — they have mortgages they can't pay off because the money the city's offering doesn't even come close."

    Kok's situation has eluded many of her neighbours, as their units were too old to either safely move or be accepted by other parks, who often put a maximum age on trailers they allow to be moved in.

    It's a familiar dilemma for 82-year-old Rudy Prediger, whose home faces the double whammy of being both too old and too big.

    "Nobody wants a double-wide," he said, sitting in his nostalgia-packed living room crammed full of memories from an eventful life.

    "Most parks won't take double-wides. They take up too much space."

    With only six more week before deciding to leave or demolish, many say neither are an option.

    "They gave us a list of where we can go — know what's on that list? The homeless shelter, the Mustard Seed … they think we're all homeless here," Prediger said.

    "We'll be homeless when they knock them all down."

    According to the city, the park's infrastructure has been a concern since the early 2000s.
    Doug Cassidy, Calgary's director of real estate and development services, said 118 of the park's 183 pads currently sit vacant.

    "Over 80 per cent have either vacated, or have communicated their plans to move," he said.

    "We can't speculate at this point of anybody that won't have vacated (by Sept. 30), but we're continuing to provide extensive support to connect them with appropriate resources."

    That includes financial compensation, he said, consisting of a $10,000 lump sum, $10,000 in available moving or demolition funds, and up to $500 to cover legal expenses.

    Kok said it's nowhere near that simple.

    "The $10,000 closure settlement depends on when the city checks your lot," she said.

    "If everything's cleaned up to their satisfaction, then you qualify for a maximum of $10,000."

    She also said the moving/demolition allowance depends on city approval of receipts before residents are reimbursed.

    "$10,000 against some of the mortgages here is nothing. What are you supposed to do if you have a $40,000 mortgage? You have no place to move your trailer to, you have no place to live. You're going to have it demolished, so now you're having to pay a mortgage for a home you don't even have?"

    Prediger said the settlement money from the city is insulting.

    "Before I take $10,000 from the city, I'll take nothing," Prediger said.

    "Because then, I'm saying it's alright. It's not alright."

    "Ten thousand dollars? What can you buy for $10,000? You can't even buy a Volkswagen. That's rent somewhere eight months, and then it's gone."