Here’s a story from the Chisago County Press.
That’s Chisago County, Minnesota — north of the Twin Cities and south of Duluth. The county is home to about 54,000 people, including the 50 households of a neighborhood called Stonegate in Lindstrom, Minn.
The Press’ Denise Martin tells us about those families and their impressive battle for independence, “Mobile home park residents take rare action in purchasing their neighborhood“:
There are as many types of people who call Stonegate home as there are makes and models of dwellings in its borders. Stonegate residents work locally and contribute in countless ways to the community, to their churches and their kids’ schools. At least two couples are retired and only come to Stonegate in the summer. There are residents who don’t speak English and are dependent on nearby relatives who helped them to locate here. Without Stonegate as an option, some residents would probably rely on public housing. When word filtered out last winter that the trailer park was being offered for sale, this diverse group did something rather amazing.
They met and decided to buy the trailer park. Picture your neighborhood and going door-to-door to convince somebody down the block that they should first put money into something — and recruiting those neighbors for a Board of Directors who would then develop a consensus for a set of rules. The new Stonegate Residential Corporation has been doing just that over the last several months. It recently closed on the financing deal to purchase the 50-lot trailer park. Stonegate; as a cooperatively owned and operated entity will, from here on out, be funding and managing itself.
… Residents no longer worry about losing their homesite at the whim of the landowner. People begin to tap into the value they’ve built over years of paying rent. … They are aware that they also have long range, big ticket projects they must start planning for now. But the realization that their neighborhood, their destiny actually, is in their hands is what brought them together and it will keep them going.
That’s a story with a happy ending. The ending of the next story isn’t yet certain, but it doesn’t look to be a happy one.
A few hundred miles southeast of Stonegate is the Sunset Village manufactured home community in Glenview, Ill., where residents are encountering what happens when a neighborhood is governed by profit-seeking landlords instead of by we, the people.
Tom Robb of the local Journal & Topics newspaper reports that “At Sunset Village, Remaining Residents Left Shaking Heads“:
Sunset Village at one time was one of the few affordable housing options available in Glenview. But the struggles of residents living in the manufactured home community (don’t call it a trailer park) have driven many from their homes. Those that remain now feel threatened.
Sunset Village is in foreclosure, its former owners, who allegedly neglected the property for decades, are out and the banks have taken over.
… Residents endured what they considered “slum lord” conditions brought on by Capital First Realty. Residents repeatedly claimed Capital allowed road, water and sewer system maintenance to become neglected.
The list of water contamination violations from Sunset Village’s private well water system on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s website is extensive dating back decades. Some pipes in the system date back to the 1940s making boil orders for water commonplace. The crumbling pipes allow contaminants in and keep water pressure out. Just about any Sunset Village resident will tell you they never drink the water.
The water system is so bad, Glenview firefighters know better than to use hydrants fed by the private system because there is not enough pressure. They found that out the hard way fighting a fire several years ago. Now firefighters dispatch special water tanker trucks when responding to Sunset Village and hook into fire hydrants outside the park.
The village brought Sunset Village to Cook County court and binding agreement overseen by a judge ordered a new water system. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit over the water system threatening fines of $10,000 per day for any EPA violation, but a federal bankruptcy and foreclosure preempted all that.
The remaining residents, Robb reports, “are trying to purchase the park property for themselves.”
The Minnesota families in Stonegate got a lot of help from a local foundation and from New Hampshire-based ROC-USA. I hope it’s not too late for the residents of Sunset Village to contact ROC USA and enlist their expertise as well.