The Metropolitan Council approved a first-of-its-kind pilot grant Wednesday, aimed at preserving affordable housing in the metro region.
Specifically, the grant is aimed at preserving manufactured home parks (MHP), which are sometimes referred to as “mobile home parks.” The Council will award nearly a quarter million dollars to the Maple Hill Estates Manufactured Home Park in the City of Corcoran. The $234,832 grant helps defray the cost of connecting to the regional wastewater system, which is necessary due to an aging on-site septic system the park currently relies on. In exchange for the funding, the MHP commits to continue to operate as an MHP and agrees to “no unreasonable lot rent increases to residents.”
The park is the second largest MHP in Hennepin County and makes up 78 percent of all of Corcoran’s affordable housing stock. Residents of color make up 40% of the park, compared to 12% in Corcoran.
“Just this week, we read in the news again how our region has the largest gap in the country between white people and people of color when it comes to home ownership. And overall, our region is facing a crisis when it comes to meeting our affordable housing needs,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff.
“Manufactured housing is an overlooked source of affordable housing, and it enables homeownership for many people who would otherwise not be able to own a home. Residents of manufactured home parks are often much more diverse than the nearby population. While the focus is often on creating affordable housing, preserving existing affordable housing is the most cost-effective approach to maintaining housing affordability. The further loss of affordable housing poses serious threats to regional equity and prosperity.”
This initiative came out of a 2016 Council report, which explored pressures on the region’s MHPs and policy levers the Council might have to preserve them. The Manufactured Home Park Preservation Report (34 pages, pdf) introduced this pilot grant program aimed at saving parks at risk of closure and promoting investment in communities with aging infrastructure.
Manufactured homes are often located in areas with access to high quality schools, job opportunities and transportation networks. They are an important source of affordable housing to some of the region’s most economically vulnerable residents, including low-income residents, residents with disabilities, and households of color. Preserving this affordable housing allows residents to remain connected to the opportunities in their communities.
Impact on Maple Hill Estates
Maple Hill Estates met all the project requirements for the grant, which included local infrastructure need and readiness, good standing with the Better Business Bureau, local city support, and access to opportunities like education, outdoor amenities, and community resources. Racially, ethnically and linguistically, the population of Maple Hill Estates is far more diverse than the overall population of Corcoran.
Residents of color make up 40% of the park, compared to 12% in Corcoran.
Latino residents make up 23% of the park, compared to 6% in Corcoran.
Of the park’s residents, 69% speak English, 21% speak Spanish and 8% speak Lao.
Maple Hill Estates also includes 117 school-aged kids with access to high-quality schools. If the park were to close and families were forced to relocate, these children would have to change schools and may not be able to access comparable schools.
The grant will cover 50 percent of the regional Sewer Availability Charges (SAC), which is a fee paid when connecting to the regional wastewater treatment system. In additional to the 50/50 funding match, the park will also be eligible to defer the balance of its SAC obligation. This will prevent the need to directly pass those costs on to residents. The switch to the regional wastewater system will also improve local water quality and the environment.
Impact on regional equity
The MHP Preservation Report found that manufactured housing is an important source of housing for people of color. When MPHs close, communities of color disproportionately feel the impact of the closure. One study found that households of color represent 10 percent of MHP residents in Minnesota, but represented 54 percent of residents displaced by park closures.
MHPs are also a source of affordable housing for low-income residents. As laid out in the 2040 Housing Policy Plan, the Council is committed to being a good steward of the region’s limited housing resources by preserving existing housing stock. The preservation of MHPs gives residents, regardless of their race, ethnicity, income, and ability, viable housing options to live in communities of their choice.