It wasn’t nice when they bought it.
But Luis Bautista and Juana Hernandez put a lot of work into their mobile home in Arbor Park. They painted, built a deck and weatherized the house, with the help of a few volunteers.
They had been living in an apartment before, which was just too cramped for the family of six. And with more bedrooms and living space, the mobile home was an affordable step up for them. After three years, it has become home, a place with a big yard for the dog, a small garden and a rabbit hutch. It’s a place they’d like to stay a while.
That’s why the couple will testify on Tuesday night before the Planning and Sustainability Commission in support of a proposal to change zoning codes to preserve mobile home, or manufactured dwelling, parks in Portland. The proposal is meant to prevent developers from buying out mobile home parks, displacing the mostly low-income people who live there.
In 2016, the Portland Housing Bureau worked with a few nonprofits to buy Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park in Cully to prevent it from being sold to a developer. Despite that small victory for affordable housing advocates, the number of mobile home parks in the city has shrunk from 62 to 56 in the past two years, according to PSC’s website.
“That began to raise concerns on the long-term availability of this affordable housing,” said Tom Armstrong, supervising planner for the project.
Living Cully, a nonprofit aiming to prevent displacement and poverty in the neighborhood, is in support of the project.
“[Mobile home parks] provide some of the most affordable housing in Portland,” said Cameron Herrington, the anti-displacement program coordinator for Living Cully. “Certainly, the most affordable private market housing in the city.”
The proposal isn’t without its criticism, though. Administrators worried about the “restrictive” nature of the proposal and questioned its reach.
Laura Hallett, the on-site manager at Arbor (who does not speak on behalf of the park itself), worries that when park owners need higher profits and have no other way to use any their land, they will raise rents, making it a high-end mobile home park.
Richard Delaney, the property manager for Arbor, thinks the proposal doesn’t go far enough. He says it preserves mobile home parks, but doesn’t make it easier to build more or improve the ones already in existence.
“It seems to me that everyone agrees that mobile home parks are part of the solution, but no one seems to agree on how to get more,” he said.
The proposal addresses part of their concerns, but not all of them. It would allow mobile home park owners to sell unused density, or space, to developers constructing other multi-dwelling buildings, like townhouses and apartments.
Owners could still raise rents on those living in rented mobile homes, but that’s not something the city could fix through a zoning change, Armstrong said.
“Through this proposal, we’re doing what we can, but we can’t fix every issue related to these manufactured dwelling parks,” Armstrong said.
The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Portland Community College Southeast Campus in the Community Hall Annex. After PSC hears public testimony, it will make its recommendations for City Council to review.