Residents of Maple Hill Estates, a manufactured housing park in Corcoran, can rest easy knowing that the land underneath their homes won’t be sold to a developer anytime soon.
In August, the Metropolitan Council approved a first-of-its-kind pilot grant—in the amount of $234,832—to cover half of the cost of connecting homes in the park to the regional wastewater system. In exchange for the funding, the owner of the park commits to:
Stability encourages greater connection, investment in community
“That feeling of stability is critical,” said Brian Dejewski, a Corcoran City Council member and resident of the park. “It gives people a greater sense of confidence they can stay where they are. It encourages residents to interact more and care about their neighbors knowing we won’t be sold out.” He said that 79% of residents have lived in the park for longer than 3 to 5 years.
Increased employment stability is another result. Dejewski said that residents of Maple Hill Estates work at local greenhouses, in retail and fast food establishments in nearby Maple Grove, Medina and Plymouth, as well as in the construction trades and assembly. Some residents own their own landscaping and snow removal businesses.
Land use in Corcoran—population 5,500—is currently dominated by single-family homes on large lots, hobby farms, and some working farms, said City Administrator Brad Martens. A 470-unit suburban-style housing development is planned for the southeast portion of the city.
“The Council’s vision is to make sure that we have opportunities for life-cycle housing in the city, which is limited now,” Martens said.
Maple Hill Estates is the second largest manufactured home park in Hennepin County. It contains 78% of the Corcoran’s housing affordable to households earning 80% of median income or less. As of 2014, residents of color made up close to 40% of the park, compared to 12% in Corcoran. Of the park’s residents, 69% speak English, 21% speak Spanish and 8% speak Lao.
Preserving manufactured housing results in greater equity
“This region continues to grapple with the largest gap in the country between white people and people of color when it comes to home ownership,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff. “And overall, our region is facing a crisis when it comes to meeting our affordable housing needs.”
“Manufactured housing is an often-overlooked source of affordable housing, and it enables home ownership 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. The further loss of affordable housing poses serious threats to regional equity and prosperity.”
When manufactured home parks close, communities of color disproportionately feel the impact of the closure. One study found that households of color represent 10% of manufactured home park residents in Minnesota, but represented 54% of residents displaced by park closures.
Council examines policies to aid preservation of manufactured home parks
The pilot grant initiative came out of a Council equity initiative. The Council’s 2016 Manufactured Home Park Preservation Report explored pressures on the region’s manufactured housing parks and the policy levers the Council might have to preserve them. The report introduced the 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 transit. They are an important source of affordable housing to some of the region’s most economically vulnerable residents. Preserving this affordable housing allows residents to remain connected to the opportunities in their communities. Maple Hill Estates is home to about 120 school-aged children with access to high-quality schools.
Maple Hill Estates met all grant criteria
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.
The grant will cover 50% of the regional Sewer Availability Charges (SAC), which is a fee paid when connecting to the regional wastewater treatment system. In addition to the 50/50 funding match, the park will be eligible to defer the balance of its SAC obligation. This will reduce 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.
Regional and manufactured home park infrastructure improvements are currently under way, and Maple Hill Estates is anticipated to connect to the regional system by the end of 2018.
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 manufactured home parks gives residents, regardless of their race, ethnicity, income, and ability, viable housing options to live in communities of their choice.