Mobile home residents will have to move from city-owned land

Mobile home residents will have to move from city-owned land

URBANA — With 10 months to get out, families in nine mobile homes off of Glover Avenue are fearing the worst after the city bought the land they live on and their landlord said they have to move.

Residents at the Barnes mobile home park say they have heard little about what they are supposed to do or where they should go. Many of them don't have the thousands of dollars they would need to move their mobile homes, and they are hoping the city will come up with relocation assistance to help them move before they are forced out.

"It's just like they're exterminating us like roaches," said Limor Stroud, who has lived in Barnes for 18 years.

Mayor Laurel Prussing said on Thursday that those discussions will happen soon. The city bought the land in December, and in April, residents were told they had a year to move.

The thin strip of land that constitutes the mobile home park sits immediately north of the city's public works garage on Glover Avenue. Public Works Director Bill Gray said the land and the park were inherited by relatives when its previous owner died. Those inheritors were looking to sell the land, and the city was interested.

With city council approval, officials agreed in December to buy the land for $113,000. But the deal is contingent on it being a cleared site — the city won't close on the sale until all the homes are removed.

After being told they'll have to leave, residents say they are not sure what they'll do. Most of the residents own their mobile homes outright, but it can cost thousands of dollars to move them.

"This is unreal," said Cindy Green, who has lived in the park with her fiancee for four years. "We just don't have that kind of money."

Residents started coming to city council meetings last month to plead their case. Prussing said city officials plan to deal with the situation.

"We're just in the process of looking at all the options and we're going to talk to every resident of the Barnes mobile home park," Prussing said. "I don't know if we're going to end up figuring out some way they can stay."

Allowing residents to stay might be possible because the city does not have any immediate plans for the property. It might be included in some kind of future expansion of city facilities, but right now, the city does not have the money to build anyway.

At a recent meeting, city council members tossed around the idea of acting as the landlord for a while until the city or the residents saved up enough money to move everyone out.

"We'll figure out what the options are and then discuss the pros and cons of each," Prussing said. "But we're certainly going to involve the residents in the discussion."

Doris and Steven Newsome say it seems to be happening very fast and that they have heard little about what their future might look like. They don't have the money to move, either, and they hope the city can find some room in its budget to help them out.

"Nine families are going to be homeless ... out of the blue," Doris Newsome said.

And for Stroud, this isn't her first time in this situation. She said it's reminiscent of when she was forced out of the Lincoln Mobile Home Park in 1996, when that property closed to make way for new student apartments. The city handed out some relocation assistance for residents of 90 homes there, but Stroud said she just wants to find a permanent home.

"This is the second time around for me," she said. "I can't keep moving around with my health."

Gray said he was just coming on as public works director when the city was working through the closure of the Lincoln Mobile Home Park in the 1990s — and that's why the officials took steps to avoid a repeat.

"Knowing what that was about, I wanted nothing to do with that," Gray told the city council. "So it was clear in our discussions that if we were to move forward with this purchase, the representatives of the (trust that owns the property) would need to relocate, move, what have you, the folks that live there."

Those representatives said it would take a fair amount of money to do that — and that's why city officials paid more than market value for the land, Gray said.

"That was compassion side, if you will, in our negotiations," Gray said. "We had no intention to get heavily involved in the moving. It was, to be clear, to have a cleared site. That was our intent. We didn't want to get involved with moving nine or 10 families."

At least a few of the park's residents are aware that the city paid more for the land, but they're skeptical about whether it will help.

"I don't think we're going to see a dime of it," Stroud said.

Alderwoman Diane Marlin, D-Ward 7, said she did not feel the city council was given a clear explanation of what was happening when presented with the sale contract late last year.

"The bigger question is why didn't we know about this situation and what can we do to prevent us being kind of left in the dark about this in the future," Marlin said. "I don't think we did get a complete picture when we voted on this. I think the people on the land is as important as the land."

The Champaign-Urbana Tenant Union has gotten involved. Esther Patt, its executive director, said the residents at Barnes are going to have trouble finding a place to move to. Some of the mobile homes are too old to be accepted into other parks, she said.

Most of the residents are over the age of 55 and retired on fixed incomes. Several make less than $15,000 per year, and for a lot of them, their mobile homes are their major financial asset.

"There are two households that have school age children, and wherever they have to move to, they would like to stay in the Urbana school district," Patt said.

Stroud said she would have a hard time finding a new place.

"I have been looking," she said. "Nothing seems to really suit me. Everything is small."

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loweez67 wrote on June 06, 2014 at 7:06 am

This is so sad.  How can the city expect these residents to move their mobile homes to a different location?  Who has that kind of money?  This just seems so unfair.  I truly hope someone steps up to help these people.  My thoughts and prayers are there for them.

Joe American wrote on June 06, 2014 at 9:06 am

Are you kidding me?

Yes, it's unfortunate, but if you live in a mobile home park, you know these things happen - and not all that infrequently. One of the residents had to relocate just four years ago and I'm aware of at least two other parks which have closed in the past couple decades.  An emergency arises and no one's prepared. Why not?  And now it's up to the taxpayers to move them?

rsp wrote on June 06, 2014 at 1:06 pm

The taxpayer is the one kicking them out. So yes the taxpayer has a duty. And how do you expect people living in poverty to have savings? Some of them are lucky to have been able to have managed to live there for 18 years and were expecting to live out their days there. Their homes were their saving and by the stroke of a pen have been made worthless.

To make matters worse, instead of dealing the problem in a responsible manner the city has paid the seller extra to "make the problem go away", as if the people were just refuse or an empty building that needed to be cleared.

Joe American wrote on June 06, 2014 at 2:06 pm


Ummm....they're in poverty because they don't have savings.  If they have cable or smartphones, then that's a choice they've made.  And your attitude does nothing in enabling them to build themselves up and out of poverty - just keep them there and keep shoveling them more and more sustenance.

I'll borrow Rob's comment from below.

Unintentional irony is the best irony.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 06, 2014 at 3:06 pm
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That's right, Joe!  If someone's in poverty, it's probably just because they spend too much money on cable and smartphones.  Thanks for figuring that out for us.

rsp wrote on June 06, 2014 at 8:06 pm

What does cable and smartphones have to do with anything? What if someone is disabled? My attitude isn't the problem, it's reality. $15,000 a year is only $1250 a month. Utilities will be higher in an older mobile home. Lot rent, any upkeep, any out of pocket medical. Food and transportation. Every time you get a little something saved something needs fixed. They don't have savings because they are in poverty. Some of these families are retired and on fixed incomes. Several of them worked hard to own their own homes. They aren't much but they are all they have. I'm really sorry you are too blind to appreciate that. And you think they are asking for a handout? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Joe American wrote on June 09, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Retired and in poverty?  

I guess NOT retiring never crossed your mind, eh?   How about getting a second or thrid job?  I guess it's easier to suckle off of the public teat.  

rsp wrote on June 12, 2014 at 8:06 am

How about retired, in poverty, and disabled. How about how hard it is to get a job at that age that isn't poverty wages and cover expenses like medical bills.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on June 06, 2014 at 10:06 am
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"How can the city expect these residents to move their mobile homes "

Unintentional irony is the best irony.

rsp wrote on June 06, 2014 at 8:06 am

It seems like all of those homes should be too old to be accepted in another park. And seriously, is it possible for the Urbana council to think of questions to ask before they vote? It's embarrassing.

787 wrote on June 06, 2014 at 8:06 am

What did these people do to upset the mayor?  They must have done something...

Son of a Barrelmaker wrote on June 06, 2014 at 10:06 am

I'm sure the folks in Champaign's Bristol Park can empathize.

C in Champaign wrote on June 07, 2014 at 6:06 am

It pains me to say this, but it is out of bounds to criticize the city, or Mayor Prussing over this. First, the owner passed away, and his heirs wish to sell the property to collect the money rather than be landlords. You can't blame the city for that. If the buyer had been a private party who wished to purchase the property clear of the mobile homes, we probably would not be reading about it here, but since the buyer is the City of Banana it's big news.

Skepticity wrote on June 07, 2014 at 5:06 pm

It is an unfortunate situation.  Mobile homes (many not really mobile after installation) are the most economical housing that allows the residents to own their own homes.  They are a modest way of living the American dream.  But though you own your home, most of the time you don't own the land, and that is a problem. 

Unfortunately there is no control over the park owners.  This situation arises from time to time as parks close or change ownership.  Lot rental costs can be changed arbitrarily, and the park can demand improvements to the properties to maintain the park.  The resident is at the mercy of the park owners to a great extent.  The alternative is a decaying park with no standards of maintenance. 

Older mobile homes are seldom accepted to move into other parks, and many older homes are physically unable to be moved due to structural issues.  The investment in a mobile home will depreciate in value over time much more than real estate housing.  Taxes are different than with real estate, and ownership is through a vehicle title.  If you want to move and sell your home without moving it the park owner gets to determine if the buyer is acceptable.  Newer parks want only newer homes. 

Since Urbana has no immediate need for using the land, perhaps the city could offer time for the residents to locate other housing, and provide assistance in doing so.  A community development block grant might be available.  Perhaps there are surplus FEMA homes that Urbana could access to help in relocating the residents in comparable housing. 

It is an unfortunate situation, but the same problem could exist if the owner sold the land to some other person for other purposes.  There is no guarantee that a mobile home park will continue indefinitely.  It would be good if the city could assist the residents in finding new affordable housing, but it needs to be done at minimal expense to the city. 

 

loweez67 wrote on June 09, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Joe American....I used to live in a trailer park.  There is nothing degrading about people who live in a trailer park.  I personally was a single mom and that was the only home I could supply for my kids.  Saving account?  Some people, including myself, live pay check to pay check and can't afford to save.  I guess we aren't all as lucky as you Joe American and we don't have a nice house or a huge savings account that would help to move our trailer!!  I have compassion for these people which is something you obviously lack.  I'm still hoping and praying for these residents. 

Joe American wrote on June 09, 2014 at 7:06 pm

I never once said there was anything degrading about living in a trailer park.

loweez67 wrote on June 09, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Joe American....I used to live in a trailer park.  There is nothing degrading about people who live in a trailer park.  I personally was a single mom and that was the only home I could supply for my kids.  Saving account?  Some people, including myself, live pay check to pay check and can't afford to save.  I guess we aren't all as lucky as you Joe American and we don't have a nice house or a huge savings account that would help to move our trailer!!  I have compassion for these people which is something you obviously lack.  I'm still hoping and praying for these residents.