Park residents have an unusual rental situation because in most cases they own their home but rent their lot. Thus, the closure of a manufactured home park neighborhood can be financially devastating for residents. It most often means the loss of their homes and possibility of homelessness. In 1987, APAC worked to pass legislation allowing cities to adopt ordinances that guarantee relocation compensation in the event of a park closing. APAC and park residents have worked together to pass such ordinances in 22 cities; from Rochester, to Bloomington, to Brainerd. In 2007, APAC lobbied the Minnesota Legislature to establish the Minnesota Manufactured Home Relocation Trust Fund providing a statewide guarantee of relocation compensation when a park closes to 180,000 residents in over 400 cities.
But even guaranteeing compensation for relocation costs is not enough with park vacancy rates so low. Don Pierson, a long-time APAC board member, summarizes the problem of many residents when he says, “I can’t afford affordable housing, when the cheapest apartment in town is renting for $700 per month.” Mr. Pierson is a retired senior living on Social Security who has lived since 1963 in Southgate, one of the two Bloomington parks remaining after three closures. Because park residents own their homes but not the land, they face the threat of a park being sold or closed, needed park improvements not being made, unfair or inconsistently applied park rules, profit driven rent increases and an inability to accumulate equity.
A solution to all of these problems is conversion to resident-ownership through a cooperative, land trust or non-profit. There are currently two routes that can be taken for residents to purchase their parks:
Several very significant changes came as a result of the effort to purchase Shady Lane and the road blocks that brought the effort to an unsatisfying end. The media took notice of park closings like never before. Twin Cities Public Television commissioned a half-hour documentary on park closing, which originally aired on April 23. Several new non-profit developers have indicated some desire to become involve in park preservation including CHDC, Central Community Housing Trust and Central Minnesota Housing Partnership. Finally, APAC is working with advocates, developers and funders to increase the capacity for park preservation through purchase by residents, non-profit and land trusts. The principle goal is to increase the funding for public policy work, community organizing and legal advocacy and the financing and for acquisition, infrastructure improvements and manufactured home replacement and rehab.
The residents of a cooperative are also the owners. This provides a greater level of control. Residents decide on rules, maintenance, management, and virtually every other aspect of the running of the park.
Instead of regular rent hikes to pad the park owner’s pockets, cooperative residents enjoy very stable monthly payments. Those payments would be used to pay off the mortgage and take care of the park. The cooperative would decide when rent needed to be raised, for example: if they wanted to add another service for residents.
Because the property is owned by the residents, it is their choice whether to accept offers and close for redevelopment. This gives families much more stability.
No longer would residents have to wait on management to get around to maintenance requests. Because the residents own the property, they will also be able to decide who is responsible for maintenance, whether that is through an individual, a resident, or a company. The co-op will do the hiring.
In a cooperative, the residents collectively own the property. It is the residents who make all decisions concerning how the park is run. This leads to a higher sense of pride and a feeling of community.
Through Northcountry Cooperative Foundation, it is possible to finance the purchase of your park. With their assistance, your mortgage payments for the park could be equal to or less than what you already pay in rent and also avoid having to pay a large down payment.
You are not alone in this. If you are interested, but don’t know where to go from here, don’t hesitate to call Northcountry Cooperative Foundation for information toll-free at 1-877-623-2827. If you have general questions, you can also call APAC at 651-644-5525 or toll-free at 1-855-361-2722.
By Brad Zellar, City Pages January 29, 2003
What follows is the once-upon-a-time story of a group of trailer park residents who were spurned and kicked around until one day they got fed up and created a humble little city they could call their own, complete with a magnificent 24-hour Flameburger restaurant. This all happened a long time ago, but before we proceed with this largely neglected chapter of local history, I'd like to ask each and every one of you to look into your heart of darkness and unburden yourself of the more uncharitable notions you harbor there. I ask you to pause for just one moment--it won't take long--and think about some of the things the phrase "trailer park" inevitably conjures in your mind. 'Fess up, you hateful wretches: Trailer trash. Tin gypsies. Human Humane Society. Blatz Babylon. Hee-Haw Heaven. Redneck Reservation. Arkansas Timeshares. Methamphetamine Inc. NASCAR Fantasy Camp. George Jonestown. Disgraceland. Hillbilly Hilton. Unplanned Parenthood.
There. I must admit, the harshness and inspired malice of your associations astonishes and appalls even me. I'd like you to leave these odious judgments behind for a time. I want to introduce you to the little city of Hilltop. It is, I contend, a tough and charming exemplar of the best sort of bootstrap democracy, and I'd like to think that you're going to be very ashamed of yourselves. Read more.