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The South Florida Roundup

South Florida Mobile Home Parks Face Real Estate Crunch

Danny Rivero
A developer bought the land where this boarded trailer resides in the Sunny Gardens Mobile Home Park in Hialeah. Some residents learned they'd have to leave by February 2019.

In the hunt for housing affordability, mobile home parks have been an oasis. But developers are eyeing them, increasing rents and forcing some residents to leave.

Mobile home parks – from Homestead to Hialeah to the Keys – are caught in the squeeze between rising real estate values and housing that has remained affordable, especially for those living on smaller paychecks or fixed incomes.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson heard from some residents of these parks and a panel of WLRN reporters: Nadege Green, Nancy Klingener and Danny Rivero.

Nejla Calvo, an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami, also joined the conversation. She works on behalf of residents who want to take legal action to try to stay in their homes.

Here's an excerpt of the show:

WLRN: So what's important about a mobile home park to understand that relationship oftentimes people who are living in the homes own the trailer – own everything from the rubber up but they don't own the ground underneath that it sits on.

DANNY RIVERO: That's exactly right. And it's not quite considered real estate. It's more regulated like an automobile.

It's like a vehicle. In fact mobile homes are permitted like vehicles are permitted.

RIVERO: Exactly. But it gets complicated because you might have a mobile home that's been sitting where it sits for 20 years or so and then it gets to a point where you can't really move it. So it's mobile in name only.

If you're living somewhere for long term and you live in one of these mobile homes and then you're told, one day to the next, Hey you have six months to pick up and leave. For a lot of people, that's your entire home. I mean you've been living there for for decades potentially and you're going to face a prospect that I don't own the land under it. I own the home. But what am I going to do with the home?

We've seen this story play out elsewhere. The residents in Homestead in this mobile home park are experiencing or will be experiencing in the weeks and months ahead. We've seen it. You've reported on it in North Dade County.

NADEGE GREEN: In the village of El Portal, for example, Little Farm closed in July 2016. And leading up to that, residents are like where are we going to go. Like many of the trailer parks, they were paying under $600 a month for their rent, or their spot, their lot on the land. However, they invest a lot of money in these trailers. They buy them for like $10,000 or $12,000. And when you're in the position to have to move, even though they're called mobile, these aren't mobile trailers. They just can't pick up and drive off with them. Ultimately what happens is that this thing that you've paid for is demolished and you're left with nothing.

What do these residents in Homestead face in the months ahead?

GREEN: I followed the Little Farm story over time. One of the hardest things is what happens when you leave or where do you go. I know one woman she moved in with her daughter in Broward, so she no longer has her own place. She couldn't afford anything out in this market. Another woman, she had a daughter with severe disability. She moved into a smaller space in Little Haiti. But it's hard for her home health aide to help her daughter navigate that space because it's so small. Her daughter is bedridden. And so all of these ultimate like what are the consequences of having to move and what is available.

And it's really hard to track what happens to people when they go. No one is really following where do you go and where do you end up. We know anecdotally, like I know a few of the stories from the folks from Little Farm, but there were dozens of people who lived there that we just don't know. Many of the people I interviewed before they ultimately were put out said that we could potentially be homeless. We don't know where we're going to go.

RIVERO: According to Florida law, by statute, if you have, say a single-wide and you're forced to leave that, you're going to get $1,375 if no additional agreement is reached. Moving a mobile home, actually picking up and moving, if you can do that – not all of them can be moved – can cost you know thousands and thousands of dollars to do that.

And the other little piece of context is mobile homes even though they've been kind of stereotyped in popular culture not. You know realistically that is one of the only not what we call naturally existing affordable housing options for a lot of people it's well below what you would pay for if you got a studio or a one bedroom and there are families living in them you know for a couple hundred dollars a month.

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Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.