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Creating Homelessness

 The housing displacement of elderly & low-income households in Kenmore Washington

Small homes or Tiny homes are the rage across the country, offering home ownership at an affordable price.  Ironically, we developed this concept years ago – calling them manufactured homes or trailer homes.  Manufactured home communities (MHCs) are sprinkled throughout our state and are usually inhabited by retirees or low-income families. Manufactured homes are HOMES, not apartments.  Residents purchase their homes from $15-$150,000 because it is affordable home ownership. They also pay a monthly fee to the park owner.  Most residents have used all their ‘nest egg’ to purchase these homes; they have made many repairs and upgrades to the home and expect to live there for many years. 

There are six MHC communities in Kenmore Washington with 257 households.  Some residents have lived in their community for over 30 years.  Recently, residents of all six parks were surprised to receive a letter informing them that there was a Planning Commission that was making recommendations to the City Council regarding MHCs and housing density in Kenmore.  Residents were invited to a meeting to learn about the future plans of their communities.  The commission was exploring options to allow development (code word for tearing down your home with no compensation) of the parks but requiring that a % of future apartments being built be ‘affordable.’  In return for losing their homes and a place to live, the residents would receive ‘first right’ of renting an apartment that would be built in the future.  This option satisfies both Kenmore’s’ density problem as well as their responsibility to provide low income housing.

WOW! (this is my commentary), WOW, so the solution to Kenmore’s density problem is to take the fixed income/low income population, the population with the lowest income, the lowest resources and the least ability to obtain legal counsel, and basically steal their homes (as home owner you have to remove your home, but there is nowhere to move it to so you have to demolish it to give back the land to the park owner ‘as it was prior to putting the home on it,’), again, steal their homes and forcing them out on the streets.   MANY residents are seniors over 80 years old and being forced out of their homes will have adverse HEALTH implications. (They will die.)  Many residents have children whose education will be disrupted, and mental health affected by becoming homeless.  MARK MY WORDS, there are few people, if any, in this community who have the financial resources to move to another home. They have put all their savings and resources into the homes that they purchased.  There is no PLAN B.

To be fair, there was another scenario that would trade development rights that the park owners had not heard of and did not think would work.  There was also an option to have the residents buy the park.  Again, the park owners pointed out that there was no way the residents could compete with the offers that they were receiving AND that the time for residents to go through the process of raising capital and financing could take years, and if the park owner wanted to sell, they would not want to wait years to do it.  So those plans were pretty much dead in the water.  They also asked the home owners what ideas they had to make ‘relocation acceptable', and if they had any good ideas that the council had not explored to solve this problem.

In short, it looks like the only option appealing to both the park owners and the city (the home owners don’t count) is to develop manufactured home parks that will provide housing for NEW people moving to Kenmore while forcing 257 long term Kenmore households into homelessness. 

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