The state of the American Dream in Stonegate and Sunset Village

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.

  • Carstonio

    I would love to see a federal agency take the approach of the old Rural Electrification Administration and provide low-interest federal loans for these types of buyouts.

  • The_L1985

     I would just love to see fewer people turned out of their homes, and more people put into homes.

  • Carstonio

     Me too. The residential corporation would accomplish that goal to some extent through structural change.

  • Lori

    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. 

    This is obviously unpossible. Private is good, government is bad, therefore it can’t be true that publicly funded fireman have to use publicly funded equipment to do their jobs because the privately run infrastructure is inadequate.

  • AnonymousSam

    In quasi-related news, just saw Obama’s speech at the DNC and it made me very happy. Pretty much everything coming out of the DNC did. For the first time since I became eligible to vote, I feel like the Democratic party is actually starting to represent what I believe, rather than simply being a saner party than the Republicans. They’ve still got a ways to go (we don’t need more oil and more gasoline as much as we need alternatives to oil and gasoline, preferably renewable ones without obvious finite limits), but to hear them address gay marriage, women’s rights and health care for the poor felt very good.

  • Lori

    I have plenty of complaints about the way Obama has governed during his first term and what he’s likely to do in a second, but I agree about feeling pretty good about what came out of the convention. (I didn’t watch it on TV, but I caught most of the major speeches online.) A lot of people have said that conventions no longer matter and that the whole business is simply pointless theater on both sides. I see their point, but I don’t exactly agree. There’s something about getting a concentrated dose of what the parties each want to say to and about themselves that I think is instructive. The Dems’ show had the feel of being proud of things that Democrats believe in rather than being afraid of them, and that was nice to hear.

    Full marriage equality is in the platform and there were 2 very well attended LGBT caucuses, where top officials literally stood in line to talk to LGBT activists.

    More than one person stood up and said out loud that the Democratic party trusts women to make their own decisions about their bodies, including the single most popular person in the party (Michelle Obama’s favorable are really high, especially when you consider the way the Right tried to demonize her) explaining why the president should have a second term.

    President Clinton stood up and reminded people what an actual policy wonk looks like and how math works. (Stick it Paul Ryan, you Randite poseur.)

    Joe Biden, bless him, dispensed with the idiocy of trying to pretend that we’re not in the middle of a class war started by the rich and put it right out there that Romney is one of the ones waging it.

    Obama explained why government actually matters and why “I got mine, screw you” is not an attitude of which to be proud. (If he can just stop pretending that there’s a way to get Republicans to cooperate in, rather than obstruct governance that man could go far.)

    Reality is always less rosy than convention speeches, but it was nice to hear Democratic values put forward in a positive way. Because using the term “values voters” to describe social conservatives is worse than a lie. Social conservatives do not have a lock on values. The rest of us have values too, we vote based on them and I’ll put ours against theirs any day of the week, and twice on Sunday just on principle.

  • 225maintenance

    Unfortunately, the bank (Lincoln Financial) that holds the note on Sunset Village all but excluded the residents offer to purchase the park.
    A large mobile home operator has made the winning bid and the number of assets being ripped out of the park has increased at a phenomonal rate. So while they remove new housing stock, they are leaving behind old, dilapidated and unsecured mobile homes, nails, garbage, insulation and piles of lumber and debris in their place.
    For the remaining residents, it means more of the same neglect at higher prices. We fully expect the next operator to follow the same play book as most by bringing in cheap housing stock and offering “rent to own” opportunities to unscreened and unqualified buyers that will eventually lose those houses bringing huge turnover and (profits) to the operator while saddling the residents with more crime and neglect that comes with a transient community.


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