Democratic State Rep. Mark Meek recently visited his constituents at the Gladstone Mobile Home Park to encourage the residents as they approach a final vote to purchase the nearly 12-acre site for themselves.
A seven-member Gladstone Mobile Home Park Purchase Committee, composed of residents, last year voted unanimously to move forward with the purchase of their community for residents age 55 and older with the help of Community and Shelter Assistance (CASA). See this newspaper's previous story, "Gladstone Mobile Home Park residents mobilize to buy land," Nov. 7.
Judy Dangerfield, a member of the purchase committee, told Meek during his April 14 visit that she moved to the park about a year and a half ago, after she lost her apartment to rent increases. She was forced to live with her children until she found a space at the park for less than $600 a month.
Meek, a Realtor whose first job was at the Fred Meyer grocery store on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, said his 75-year-old mother still lives in affordable housing in Gresham.
"I totally empathize with you, and I want to do what I can," Meek told the residents. "I'm excited about the work you're doing, and I want to help preserve affordable housing."
Lowell Read, the property owner since 1956, has kept rents at the park lower than the surrounding area. Read greeted Meek at the clubhouse with the residents and was eager to share the history of the site.
Read said his family purchased the site and left some of the land for "Indian Dave," a member of the Nez Perce tribe whose family was annihilated. "Indian Dave" reportedly was adopted by missionaries in Idaho and eventually found his way to Gladstone. Quoting the Woody Guthrie song, "This Land is Your Land," Read said the tribal history of the site offers an interesting parallel to the current purchase committee being formed by residents.
"I really want to thank you and your family, Lowell, for giving us the opportunity to purchase the park," said Kim Baller, a member of the purchase committee who noted that the number of people moving to the Portland metro area is putting pressure on the rental market and Clackamas County's social services.
"We're happy to stick our finger in the dike to prevent homelessness," Read responded.
Depending on the price the cooperative pays for the park, rents may have to increase to cover its acquisition costs. On May 20, all of the approximately 135 residents at 19605 River Road will get the opportunity to review the financial information being negotiated between Read and CASA and to vote on forming a resident-controlled organization that would own the site. An initial vote of the residents on Nov. 10 went well, with more than three-quarters of the nearly 95 residents present voting to form a cooperative and to name the purchase-committee members to an interim board of directors.
Meek visited the mobile-home park residents last month, just as the Oregon Legislature was engaged in its own votes that would affect owners of manufactured homes. On May 3, Meek voted for a bill that passed the House 54-6 to require manufactured-home park landlords converting their property to another use to pay tenant relocation costs or a closure penalty to be determined by the Office of Manufactured Dwelling Park Community Relations.
"These are manufactured homes, not really mobile homes, so we know you're not just able to take them elsewhere," Meek said.
Meek was instrumental in crafting a compromise with State Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie, on a bill passing 31-27 to limit no-cause evictions and lift a ban on rent control.
"This is one of the last bastions of housing affordability in our particular area and in our state as a whole," Meek told the residents in the park's clubhouse. "I'd like to have folks be more stable in their lives and have less chance to lose their homes or get priced out."
After the discussion, Meek toured the 142-space park, where Read has "sacrificed" three spaces for the needs of residents: two for community gardens, and one for extra parking. CASA representatives, who encouraged residents to testify on the bills in the Legislature even though Read's property won't be retroactively affected, were joined during Meek's visit by Kenny LaPoint, housing integrator for Oregon Housing and Community Services.
If the May 20 vote of residents is successful, ROC USA often provides the primary funding source for 100 percent financing. Network Oregon Affordable Housing and Banner Bank also have partnered with CASA to provide park residents with financing.