There are 90 students in the Highline School District who wake up every morning wondering if today will be the day their families are displaced from the manufactured housing community where they’ve grown up. What goes through their heads? When we lose our home, where will we live next? Will I still be able to attend the same school and see my friends? My family’s already struggling to make ends meet, what if they can’t afford to pay rent for a new place and buy food?
The uncertainty and confusion around the fate of the Firs Mobile Home Park in SeaTac is taking its toll on the 69 Latino and senior households who own their homes but rent the land under them and simply want to stay there, living the American dream of affordable homeownership. However, the owner of the community wants to evict everyone and replace the mobile home park with two hotels — as if SeaTac needs two more hotels — there are already 8,400 hotel bedrooms in the vicinity.
The battle to save the Firs has been raging for almost two years. With the help of the Association of Manufactured Home Owners (AMHO), the community has formed a homeowners’ association (HOA) and through legal counsel have prevailed to date in their attempts to save their homes and preserve the community.
However, we do not know what lies ahead. The community owner, Mr. Jong Park, is unwilling to meet with the HOA board, who would like to offer a fair price to purchase the community. They have plans to preserve the affordable housing and even, resources permitting, to establish opportunities for minority-owned businesses to set up on part of the property. The HOA has been meeting with several nonprofit housing agencies, local community organizations, educators, union members and other supportive individuals in an attempt to pull together the necessary funding to purchase the land beneath their homes. While there is still a shortfall, they are confident that they can raise the necessary funds through donations, grants, loans and self-help.
It is ironic, to say the least, that in this affordable housing crisis, with homelessness looming over the heads of their constituents, the city of SeaTac has done nothing to help alleviate the situation. HOA members have attended numerous City Council meetings over the past two years and have been treated with disrespect. The “eye-rolling” of some council members when they hear that you are there to talk about the Firs’ situation is blatant, as is the racism that is evident when the sign-up sheet is taken away before the Latinx speakers are able to sign in, or when they are told that their interpreter cannot assist them.
Unfortunately, the homeowners at the Firs are not the only ones facing the loss of their homes due to the redevelopment of their manufactured housing communities. This happens a lot, especially when the economy is good and developers are eager to build wherever they can. Indeed, I’ve heard landlords claim that they purchase manufactured housing communities that lie in the path of development so that they can evict the homeowners and sell the land for huge profits within a few years of buying it.
Of course, the landlords are not required to pay one cent to the families they are evicting. In all likelihood these displaced homeowners will not be able to move their homes to other communities and will therefore lose all the equity they had in their homes, may still need to pay off some of the loan they used to pay for the home, and then will have to dispose of their home and find some other housing for themselves and their families.
Affordable homeownership needs to be supported and every jurisdiction ought to have plans in place to preserve manufactured housing communities for the long-term. Otherwise, there will be nowhere for the children to go.
SeaTac mobile home residents get a reprieve from eviction
SeaTac mobile home residents fighting property sale, eviction notice
Mobile homes offer an affordable roof, but tenants struggle when the land disappears beneath them
Check out the full Oct. 31 - Nov. 6 issue.
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