Investors threaten Oregon’s ‘naturally occurring affordable housing’

Over 80 families who live in manufactured homes on about 8 acres in Gladstone are gearing up to purchase the property for themselves.

During a packed Jan. 25 meeting at the Gladstone Community Center, most Tri City Mobile Court residents raised their hands to signal their interest in forming an organization that would own the site.

Maria Orozco, a longtime resident of Tri City, said that somewhere between 60-70% of the residents are Spanish speaking, many of whom have children who attend public schools in Gladstone. With almost everyone in the manufactured home park either low income or reliant on Social Security payments, Orozco said she’s a single mother who raised her three children (aged 17-23) at the park while working three jobs.

“It means a lot to a lot of people in the park, because it’s more than a home for us,” she said.

A committee comprised of Tri City residents is moving forward with help from Community And Shelter Assistance, a nonprofit organization since 1998 with extensive experience in assisting residents with the purchase of their communities. CASA’s dozens of successful “conversions” of manufactured home parks — converting land from private hands to nonprofit organizations — includes the approximately 130 residents of the nearly 12-acre site next door to Tri City.

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Attendees of the Jan. 25 meeting packed the Gladstone Community Center with residents concerned about the sale of Tri City Mobile Court.

Gladstone Mobile Home Park became the Two Rivers Homeowners Cooperative in 2019 after its residents worked with CASA to purchase the park for $8.75 million. Their cooperative financing agreed to partner with ROC USA and its affiliate, the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, nonprofits with over 25 years of experience combining technical assistance with purchase financing for resident cooperative corporations.

CASA Manufactured Housing and Cooperative Development Center Director Rose Ojeda said that state officials and affordable housing advocates continue to struggle to preserve mobile-home parks in the face of developers who displace hundreds of low-income homeowners annually. Ojeda urged the Tri City residents to consider raising their rents under the cooperative model that would preserve “naturally occurring affordable housing” that exists throughout Oregon in manufactured parks.

CASA and a committee of residents at Tri City envision a scenario in which a resident cooperative would purchase the manufactured home park instead of a new investor.

“The cooperative would own the property, but manufactured homeowners would still own each of the houses,” Ojeda said.

Orozco was among the residents who were hopeful that a park conversion would eventually stabilize rent increases, pending financial information that the park owners are legally required to provide the coop committee.

“We could have our rents stable for a long period of time,” she said.

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State Sen. Mark Meek’s Chief of Staff Marcus Sis told the crowd on Jan. 25 that they could count on the legislator’s advocacy at the state level for grants and laws favorable to manufactured park cooperatives. 

State Sen. Mark Meek, D-Gladstone, couldn’t attend the meeting, but Meek’s Chief of Staff Marcus Sis showed up to tell the group that they could count on Meek’s advocacy at the state level for grants and laws favorable to manufactured park cooperatives. Meek’s legislative record includes support for such bills.

Tri City resident Mac McCoy said that he’s interested in working to purchase the site cooperatively with his neighbors, since the only other options he sees are half-million-dollar homes or market-rate apartments that could double their rents. Many Tri City residents say that they currently pay between $710-$723 monthly.

“It’s disheartening to think we’d be getting new owners, given that more than likely what they want to put in there is a big apartment complex,” McCoy said.

Tri City Mobile Court is represented by Brenda Christina, a real-estate agent based in Vancouver, Washington. Contacted over the phone by Pamplin Media Group, Christina said she had no comment about why the owners were thinking about selling.

Ojeda said that there’s currently no indication that Tri City would close as a park for manufactured homes. Given that the owners have only issued an intent to sell, not an intent to close, Ojeda believes that it is likely that renters of spaces for manufactured homes at Tri City will be able to stay in the park under the new ownership.

Unlike the show of hands during the recent meeting, an official vote would be needed to incorporate a resident cooperative to buy the property. If the vote is positive, the park residents expect to elect a transitional committee to file papers with the state and complete other administrative tasks. Once the transitional period is over, the residents would elect a board of directors of their new nonprofit.

CASA promised to provide technical assistance to help Tri City manufactured homeowners organize a cooperative, establish bylaws, form governing committees and secure the financing to purchase the park. In certain cases, off-site property management services — as well as ongoing post-purchase technical assistance — will be included in the operating budget.

Residents in the coop would vote on whether or not they’re willing to raise the rents in order to purchase the park. CASA advises that if the park is sold to an investor, rents may go up anyway, and in that case, residents won’t get to decide by how much.

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