Friday, April 22, 2016 by Eva Ruth Moravec

Council pledges to protect mobile home residents

The majority of City Council members voted Thursday to protect mobile home residents along with other tenants who are displaced by development.

In an 8-1-1 vote with Council Member Don Zimmerman opposed, Council Member Sheri Gallo abstaining and Mayor Steve Adler out of town, Council passed a resolution directing staff to include owners and renters of mobile homes in a draft ordinance that will establish a so-called “Tenant Relocation Program.”

The ordinance – underway since November – is meant to set requirements for developers to help relocate tenants whose homes are being redeveloped. But apparently nobody thought about including people who live in mobile home parks until after stakeholder meetings took place in January and February.

During Council’s discussion of the resolution to add tenants of mobile homes, Council Member Pio Renteria, one of two members who pushed the item forward, said he was spurred to act on behalf of the 54 residents at the Cactus Rose Mobile Home Park.

There, tenants are leasing a piece of east side land that is slated for redevelopment as the multifamily, mixed-use Lenox Oaks, should the land be rezoned.

“We weren’t – at that time – faced with the problem we’re facing today,” said Renteria, referring to initiation of the ordinance in November. “We didn’t include mobile homes, and now people are faced with having to move out, and they’re never going to be able to move them.”

The units are old, Renteria said, and those who live in them can’t afford to relocate them. The developer has offered to help the families out by giving each $3,000, said Renteria.

Although he was unsuccessful in his plea for a moratorium on all redevelopments of RV parks until the new ordinance is passed, Renteria’s efforts to garner support for mobile home tenants were successful.

“As we have grown exponentially, now we’re growing into where mobile homes are the only option for people,” said Council Member Ora Houston. “There needs to be some protection.”

Houston said she is aware of about 10 mobile home communities that are “all feeling some pressure from developers.”

Council Member Leslie Pool said her sympathies will be with those who live in “trailer parks, because their income is a lot lower than anyone else’s in the city.”

Zimmerman responded that he had compassion for “people who are forced to pay even higher taxes to pay the subsidies” for things like tenant relocation.

Because mobile home owners and tenants were not originally involved as stakeholders, city staff said it would want to solicit input in a couple of meetings before tweaking the language of the ordinance.

Gallo repeatedly said she had concerns about including mobile homes since they were left out of the stakeholder process. She also raised concerns about a publicly released timeline of the ordinance, which city staff said had already been delayed.

The incorporation of mobile homes will push back the ordinance by about six weeks, staff said, which Council generally supported as long as the estimated timeline is accurate. As for the rezoning of Cactus Rose, that item has not yet come before Council. Renteria said Thursday that passing the resolution was a must-do before the rezoning case.

“If we can’t help these people, I won’t support the redevelopment of that land,” he said.

Photo by Thomas R Machnitzki (thomasmachnitzki.com) (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

affordable housing: This general term refers to housing that is affordable to Austinites, with or without subsidy.

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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