Mobile home residents seek city aid, deal with owner, to stave off eviction
Renae Corbett hopes she doesnt have to sleep in the back of her pickup truck again.
Corbett is one of 65 residents of the Oak Leaf mobile home park in Northeast Portlands Cully neighborhood who are trying to fend off sale and redevelopment of the complex. Most of the 30 units at Oak Leaf are decades-old, single-wide mobile homes, plus there's a few residents living in RVs.
Owner Van Tran, who lives in California, struck a deal to sell the complex at 4556 N.E. Killingsworth St. to an unidentified buyer who would tear down Oak Leaf and redevelop it into some other, presumably more-profitable form of housing, says Cameron Herrington of Living Cully. Living Cully is a coalition of community groups active in in the neighborhood that promote affordable housing, parks and other local improvements while trying to forestall gentrification.
Living Cully, St. Charles Catholic Church and other groups are working with the Oak Leaf residents to prevent the sale and convince Tram to sell it to the mobile home owners instead.
Corbett rents her mobile home for $500, and lives there with her 79-year-old father. They and the other low-income residents, many of them living off Social Security and disability checks, fear they could become homeless if they are evicted.
None of the mobile homes are truly mobile, and even if they were it's rare these days for a mobile home park to accept older single-wide units any more.
But such units provide a basic form of affordable housing that is in short supply in Portland. And, including four other mobile home parks up the street on Killingsworth, they collectively house an estimated 1,300 residents, about 10 percent of the Cully neighborhood, Herrington says.
The Portland City Council is committed to tiny homes, says Larry OMara, a 29-year resident of Oak Leaf. Well, use our homes.
OMara, a disabled Vietnam veteran, pays $462 a month to rent space for his unit. During the winter, he says, the electric bill can as high as $300 a month.
But its home, and he and others hope the buyout can help rekindle a sense of community at Oak Leaf.
Forming a mobile home owners' cooperative to buy the complex is critical, says Victor Johanson, who pays $460 space rental for his unit.
We can all take care of each other," Johanson says. We can look after each other.
The residents have found a sympathetic audience, so far, from Portland city commissioners.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau, has directed the bureau to explore ways of providing the $1.5 million residents may need to acquire the property.
Saltzman suggested the city might be able to get money from a new construction excise tax authorized by the 2016 Oregon Legislature, which could go into effect shortly after June.
We havent identified the exact funding source, cautioned Brendan Finn, Saltzmans chief of staff, but Dan does want to find a way to help.
Herrington says Oak Leafs owners failed to follow a state law requiring notice to residents before inking a sale agreement. Trans local attorney did not return a phone call Friday requesting comment.
The state law is intended to enable mobile home residents, who generally own their homes, to acquire the land themselves and stave off evictions. Casa of Oregon helps residents form cooperatives to buy mobile home parks, and it's working with Oak Leaf residents.
But Tran is under no obligation under state law to accept their purchase offer, even if they can come up with the money.
Residents also are working with Legal Aid on a legal strategy, so Corbett figures they have some leverage with the owner. It would behoove her to look at our offer seriously, she says.
I lived in that Ford Ranger for a year with a 110-pound dog, Corbett said, pointing to the pickup in her driveway. It was not fun but you do what you have to do, she said. Hopefully, I dont have to put my bed in the back of my truck again, because I have a heart condition.