As the residents of Palm Trailer Park empty their homes, readying for eviction this summer, they can look over the south fence at what Miami-Dade County considers affordable housing.
The drives there are freshly paved, not worn and gravelly. The buildings are painted in identical shades of cream, as opposed to the trailer park’s patchwork of rusting metal and tacked-up plywood. There is a swimming pool rather than concrete slabs marking the sites of demolished trailers.
The complex’s 204 units are set aside for low-income families, with rents as low as $625 a month.
And they are completely unaffordable for many of the residents at the trailer park, in unincorporated Miami-Dade near Northeast 16th Avenue and 112th Street.
”The people here are poor, so poor,” said Ana Lucia Morales, who pays $275 a month to rent the lot for her trailer, which her granddaughter bought her five years ago for $5,500. Light, phone and food bills for herself and her three dogs and eight cats consume the rest of her $535 monthly income.
Like many of her neighbors, Morales lives mostly on Social Security. By the end of June, they will be evicted from the homes that they own outright, bought out against their will for a few thousand dollars and sent away from some of South Florida’s last truly low-income housing.
As mobile home owners, they are victims of a wildcat real estate market, a complicated zoning code and a tanking economy — a fast-changing landscape that has left the owners of some of South Florida’s nearly 200 trailer parks caught between selling out and going under.
The region has no houses in these residents’ price range; they have struggled even to find apartments, and tens of thousands of people are ahead of them on public-housing waiting lists.
They own their homes but not their land, and when they are cast out they almost all share the same problem.
They have nowhere to go.
”The affordable housing we talk about is not affordable to the people we’re talking about,” said Subrata Basu, Miami-Dade’s director of planning and zoning.
And even as the plummeting real estate market chills most speculators, some parks’ large size and ready-made zoning keeps them attractive.
”Mobile home parks are the low-hanging fruit for developers,” said Shirley Taylor-Prakelt, housing director in Davie, home to about 20 traditional parks.
More than 30,000 trailer lots are licensed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Some owners have invested thousands of dollars in the homes and thousands more on improvements such as central air conditioning.
Eviction can cost them their life savings.
That’s because it’s illegal to relocate older trailers, which are not built to withstand hurricanes, and state law requires the park to pay only $1,300 for homes abandoned on site.
With the help of the nonprofit group Jobs With Justice and a pro bono lawyer enlisted by a neighboring church, the Palm residents were offered far more: $6,300 per trailer.
While that is more than enough to pay for a security deposit and first and last month’s rent on a new place, it is not enough to keep many residents afloat beyond a few months. Others cannot pass the credit check required for some apartments or cannot find a place for their pets.
”It’s really made a shambles of my life,” said Kenneth Foster, 72, who has lived in Palm for 20 years and said he cannot afford rent higher than $400. He fears he will be sleeping in his van.
Lawyers for the park’s owner, Alta Mira Apartments, did not return calls last week.
Read the rest of the story at: Miami Herald
When the new laws were passed with stricter standards for mobile homes, I wondered at the time how people who could not afford a new mobile home and instead were living in 20+ year-old relics were supposed to afford it. After all, mobile homes were supposed to be an alternative for the working poor to not having a roof over one’s head. Unfortunately for those earning a low income or on a (very) fixed income, the laws designed to protect them will instead cause them to be homeless.
No, they can’t go to low-income housing; there isn’t enough of it to go around. Even here in our less expensive housing market, an older trailer on an acre of land could cost over $100,000, a sum sadly out of reach for someone who can pay at most $400 a month for housing.