Divided Phoenix City Council approves $2.5M emergency fund for displaced mobile home residents
After many months of mobile home residents begging Phoenix leaders to help them fight evictions, the City Council took action Wednesday night. But no one seemed satisfied with the outcome.
Residents at three mobile home communities are being forced to move because the park owners have redevelopment plans. Resident own their homes but not the land and pay rent to live there.
Michelle Cruz missed school to attend the six-hour meeting where a Spanish interpreter stood next to her as she addressed the council.
“I’m very sad and worried,” she said through the interpreter. “I do not want to leave. I don’t want another change. I want the neighbors that I have now. I want my friends.”
Residents pleaded with the council to designate the parks for mobile home use only or stop redevelopment for 18 months. Half the council wanted to, including Betty Guardado. Her district includes Periwinkle Mobile Home Park that Grand Canyon University wants to turn into student housing.
“We have given GCU the chance to come to the table, we spoke to them, I personally met with them,” Guardado said. “This is about what they need to do now, not about what they’ve done in the past 15 years in terms of scholarships, in terms of tutoring, in terms of partnerships with schools … that doesn’t give GCU the right to now displace families, just because they’ve done some stuff. That is not right.”
Approximately six to eight GCU students and local pastors who work with GCU praised the university’s work in the Maryvale area where it is located.
“Just over the past 10 years, GCU has grown exponentially and is now the largest private Christian university in the country," said Amaya De La Cruz, a junior. “From this growth we have been able to serve and help the community of central Phoenix by creating job opportunities, providing household goods through city serve, renovating homes and schools with Habitat for Humanity and much more regarding safety, free tutoring services and tuition assistance.”
At the city’s suggestion, GCU hired Trellis, a nonprofit, to provide navigation services for Periwinkle residents to understand their options and financial aid opportunities when moving. A Trellis representative said of the 46 Periwinkle households it is supporting, 11 families have been relocated with three more scheduled for next month. Another eight households are evaluating housing choices and 24 households have refused to work with Trellis.
Councilmember Carlos Garcia, whose district includes Las Casitas where residents are also being evicted, wanted the council to approve a moratorium and overlays on the properties to keep them as mobile home parks. He suggested opponents in the audience talk with residents to better understand their situations. Councilwoman Laura Pastor agreed with Garcia. Her district includes Weldon Court where mobile home residents are also being evicted.
Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari’s district includes an area called "The Zone," where people live in hundreds of tents and said, "It is going to be impossible for us to make a dent in this crisis, to get people off of the streets, to get people into homes if we cannot prevent more from falling into that situation."
Three members of the public said the moratorium and new zoning restrictions would set a dangerous precedent by getting the city involved in private real estate transactions.
Mayor Kate Gallego, along with Councilmembers Debra Stark, Ann O’Brien, Jim Waring and Sal Diciccio, cited state law that could cost Phoenix financially if it pursued zoning overlays or a moratorium. In 2006, voters approved Proposition 207, which would require the city to compensate a landowner if the property value is reduced by a land use law. They voted to set aside $2.5 million for an emergency relocation fund to help displaced mobile home residents and work with a nonprofit to disburse the fund.